Photo by Karl Kristiansen, New Zealand
Geographic Spring 2010
Growing the Future
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas
Spreading the Organic Gospel in New Zealand A Polar Exploration to Antarctica
Aces of Airmail Alison DeGraff
The River Ganges
Snippets of Spain Hillary Coleman
Keeping the Sea at Bay Cloe Shasha
Locating Slums on a Global(ized) Map
Canoeing through an Arctic Landscape
Alison DeGraff, Sam Dawson, Hannah Epstein, Lauren Fritz, Nicholas Sohl, Kyle Hunter, and Cloe Shasha Emma Drucker Kyle Hunter
Sam Dawson, Nathan Edwards, and Meaghen Brown
dedicated to George A.R. Spyrou
Photo by Nathaniel Smith, offshore of Key West, Florida
Middlebury Geographic is designed to capture and celebrate the scholarly work, independent research and global adventures of the Middlebury College student body. Inspired by National Geographic, Wired and J.B. Jacksonâ€™s Landscape, Middlebury Geographic combines quality journalism with narrative photography and creative cartography. Each feature article, photo essay and special section brings with it the unique perspective and insight of our peers. This issue, our second, explores a variety of scales and spaces: from urban slums in Lagos and Buenos Aires, to small-scale agriculture in New Zealand to northern and southern polar expeditions. We bring together work from twenty different students who have investigated our world with integrity and a keen eye for beauty. We hope you enjoy the journey ahead. 2
Sincerely, Peter Spyrou, Alison DeGraff, Nicolas Sohl, Emily Allison, Roman Mardoyan-Smyth, and Kyle Hunter
Photo by Moria Robinson, Tennesee
Wings of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies (Battus philenor) overlap as they jostle to extract nutrients from a puddle in Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennesee
Bee pollinating flowering cactus. Southwest Research Station, Arizona
Bee pollinating flowering cactus, Southwest Research Station, Arizona 5
A boy serenades a girl with his homemade mandolin in the village of Mahazoarivo, Madagascar 6
Photo on previous page by Moria Robinson, Arizona; Photos by Nicolas Sohl, Mahazoarivo & Ifotaka, Madgascar
Dressed in an official school uniform, this girl returns from the fields at dusk. Watermelons are commonly used as a source of water when working in the fields. In some communities watermelons are shared and people may take freely from other peoples fields if thirsty. 7
Canoeing in an Arctic Landscape
n the twenty-fourth of July, I sipped a mango daiquiri on a beach with seven friends. Ice splinters tinkled in the drink, echoing windblown pan-ice grinding into gravel. The latitude was just over sixty degrees north, and the temperature was a few degrees above freezing. Mosquitoes were the only living thing in sight, and we were frozen into a remote bay in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Our four Old Town canoes lay overturned on the beach.
My journal reads: Well, the ice question has been answered. We’re camped in the barrens —just little trees & willows, scrubby groundcover, and pan ice out on the bay. Slogged up seven or so miles of tenuous leads in the ice today. Taking a mid-afternoon break and indulging in Ben’s mango soaked in rum. Ice behind us and no turning back now—it’s 250 miles out to the Bay. Nueltin Lake is one hundred miles long, more than twenty miles wide, and straddles the Manitoba-Nunavut border. Some years the ice never melts and this year was shaping up to be one. “Been a late spring,” we were told by the owner of a fish camp on the lake. “First time in twenty years the ice ain’t gone out, eh!” In Nunavut, where late July counts as “spring,” the winters are cold enough to detach retinas and freeze nostrils shut in minutes. It’s also harsh enough to deter all but the most enduring tree species. As we paddled north, our map background shifted from green to white, symbolizing the tundra barrens. We had crossed that ephemeral boundary known as the “treeline,” which sweeps from the Arctic Ocean in Yukon down to Churchill on Hudson Bay, slicing Nueltin Lake neatly in half.
About halfway up the lake, windswept black spruce and larch finally give up their struggle, leaving only low sedge, dwarf birch, and fluorescent blooms of lichen on frost-split boulders. Under our feet were mats of cloudberries and bog rosemary meshed into hairy mosses. The taiga forest had faded away, replaced by the scrubby microcosm of tundra. We stared over the ice sheets barring the bay’s exit and settled into a new commitment to the barrens. The arctic wind wrapped our group in endless, inescapable space.
In Nunavut, where late July counts as “spring,” the winters are cold enough to detach retinas and freeze nostrils shut in minutes “Here’s to summer,” someone said. I tossed back the rum and sucked my last mango slice. Our group of eight—all affiliated with Middlebury College in Vermont—had already been paddling for two weeks. After packing for three days in Minnesota, we drove twenty-three hours north to the end of the road in Thompson, Manitoba. Then, with the help of a bear-like cargo manager named Devin, loaded all 532 pounds of food, four canoes and over 500 pounds of personal gear onto a cargo jet bound to resupply the Dene village of Lac Brochet. “Goin’ to Lac, eh? Ice just went out two weeks ago,” said Devin. The fourteen passenger prop plane bounced once and lurched to a stop in a spray of gravel. Our four canoes and 9
North Sealhole Lake ia z
ane Ri ve r chr Co
Route Camps 50 mi 50 km
Lac Brochet Cartography: Alison DeGraff & Orion Remaniak
Source: Google Maps 2009
Route of canoe expedition from Lac Brochet to Hudson Bay sixteen bulging packs had beaten us by a few minutes, and squatted at the far end of the strip. We humped our canvas Duluth packs and four Old Town Trippers down to the water, where a stiff wind raked the lake. After a few fruitless hours struggling into its teeth, we set up camp just past the village. The next morning I wrote: The area is flat & mossy, with the scent of Labrador Tea and thousands of tiny alpine flowers. Our campsite is strewn with caribou bones, old cans, and what looks to be the remains of a drying rack… The sun set last night around 11:20, and the colors extended unbroken around the whole, massive horizon. The wind is down this morning. We spent the next five days paddling, poling and lining upriver. The Cochrane River—comparable in volume to the Hudson near New York City—flows south through a series of swampy lakes separated by high-volume rapids. With every mile we 10
worked up the river, human impact lessened; fewer rusty cans and more moose wading in the grassy shallows. We were paddling the Old Way North—the five hundred mile inland waterway connecting the Cochrane to the Thlewiaza River, Nueltin Lake and ultimately, Hudson Bay. To our knowledge, no other group paddled the Old Way North that season, and during the whole month we spent on the water we only once saw other humans, at a fishcamp on southern Nueltin. We tied the canoes to beachside scrub and hauled our unwashed bodies to the kitchen door, avoiding the front entrance. The camp owner, Shawn, greeted us with black coffee and moist cherry chocolate cake. “You’re in the North, you’re welcome to it,” he said. “Four feet of ice under your paddles three weeks ago.” When we first arrived, Shawn insisted that there’d be no way for us to make the northern end of Nueltin without eighty miles of portaging and an extra month of travel. By the end of the day, he seemed
North much more optimistic—or maybe he just distant eskers, and tried to model the wanted to get rid of us. “You need to go up potential retreat of the ice. Renee tended the west side, and watch the weather. Sit a small stick fire, boiling water for tea and tight if you have to. You might die, eh!” scorching all of our boots. Bonnie and We took this as encouragement and Heather scrubbed dishes in a sandy shoved off at 5:00 the next morning. By backwater, while Nicole dozed in the tent. lunch we’d made twenty miles up the South I scribbled in my notebook, cleaned my Bay, and after a nap, paddled another ten rifle, and walked to an esker a mile from miles in the dark and fog. Around 11:00 camp. Standing atop its arch, I leaned into at night we crossed sixty degrees north and the wind and watched the fog lift slowly off the Nunavut border. It was our longest day the lake. Low islands close to shore emerged on the water to date, and it felt good to be first, followed by mid-lake crags, and finally moving again, headed toward the ice and an the opposing shore and Hearne Bay, unknown challenge. We had caught two big stretching twenty icebound miles eastward. trout while trolling up the lake, the air was By eight the wind shifted and the warm, and the omens seemed favorable. pans were starting to move out from The next day we kept an eye out for shore. We can see about a half mile of fifty-five gallon drums and stone piles clear, cold water between us and the set up as waypoints in the convoluted pack-ice. Narrows channel. We saw our first ice that Left camp at 2pm & paddled out to the ice stretching south the way we’d day—breaking through a few thin sheets, come. Cool air pouring off it as we then some denser patches, and finally reached a group of islands where the working methodically through tightly ice thinned out. Distance and time packed pan ice. are unnerving in the center of a lake We made six slow miles before an east this size. Five miles from either shore in dead calm weather. A shout or a wind drove the ice sheet, and us ahead of whistle took ten seconds to reach the it, toward shore. The land was peppered shore and echo back. No more trees to with lichenous boulders, and we were left gage distance by, and islands are twice trapped and alone in the barrens. We woke as far away as they seem. The mind to see the bay more iced in than ever, and an loses orientation. onshore wind snapped viciously at the nylon of our three tents. Our giddy excitement for We woke to see the bay “adventure” felt suddenly naïve. We had more iced in than ever, already burned through all but one of our scheduled rest days, and the hardest half of and an onshore wind the trip seemed to stare us in the face. Ben plucked at a little guitar that he’d taken great pains to keep dry and tuned, while Pete ran oily flannel patches through the bore of his twelve gauge. We had nothing to do but wait, and each had our own methods of dealing with the forced halt. Ian pored over our most detailed maps, twisted a compass, triangulated from
snapped viciously at the nylon of our three tents
The air was clear, and our vision limited only by the curve of the earth. A circular horizon, unbroken permafrost, and not another human in 300 miles. The open sky seemed to absorb thought, leaving nothing but the next paddle stroke. 11
Photo by Christian Woodard
We paddled a landscape of wind, water and space that revealed itself only reluctantly. For the better part of the month, nothing visibly alive crossed our paths. A few Bonaparte Gulls, maybe, or a bald eagle. No charging polar bears, no seals, no traditional hunters sucking marrow from caribou femurs or frying bannock bread. So we focused inward, on the seven others sharing the pilgrimage, the state of our feet, or the availability of firewood. I thought a lot about food. At the end of Nueltin Lake we swabbed crumbly bannock in the peanut butter barrel and shared a half-pound block of Extra Sharp Cabot Cheddar. The river beckoned at the far end of Seal Hole Lake; we’d heard rumors of an eight mile-per-hour current and long stretches of boat-scoutable class II rapids. It would be literally all downhill from here, and I could almost imagine Hudson Bay on the horizon. It wasn’t going to be all easy cruising— Nicole was running a fever, Ben’s throat was a minefield of white strep sores, and Bonnie’s feet were erupting in bloody blisters from trenchfoot. We had paddled off of our annotated maps, and had only 10 meter topolines to hint at the character of the river. The water was running high,
the rain seemed to have settled in for the long haul, and we were finally reaching polar bear territory. All of our spaghetti had gotten wet and was starting to ferment. But we weren’t alone, and that night we found a hunting shack by the outflow of Seal Hole Lake. Renee caught a mess of fish, and we fried them with cornmeal over the barrel stove. The whitewashed walls bore the carefully penned names of paddlers who’d made the same trek. Ben uncapped a ballpoint and ceremoniously added in a hypothermic scrawl: “July 28th 2009— Paddling from Lac Brochet to the mouth of the Thlewiaza. The ice went out right when we got to Nueltin. Lots of rain, cold. Great land—beautiful country!” To which we all signed our names. The clouds glowed golden throughout that whole night, backlit by a barely setting sun. I woke at two in the morning to add wood to the stove, and the low horizon was still bordered with light. Tufts of arctic cotton swayed on the ridge, picking up the high latitude night-glow. The sandy soil cradled my boots, and a soft breeze came across the lake. I glanced over the black river with its turbulent blooms and boils, moving silently downstream, and returned to the cabin with an armload of willow twigs.
Artwork by Emily Reed
Snippets of Spain
Parque del Ebro I run and run and run along the thick, brown river. I listen to it slide towards the rapids in a low murmur at once insidious and innocent. The people I pass read the lettering on my baseball cap and the back of my tee. Their eyes tread after me, and chica americana floats gently behind me. It has been weeks now and I no longer care. I lose myself in the dusk, in the purple blur on the water reflecting the bridge, and the clouds streaking into the deep blue. The weeping willows linger over the park lights, turning them a sleepy green. Now, the city is at its most beautiful, its modern, pointed features softened. I try to make a mental sketch of colors, sounds, smells. Maybe later, I will write it all to you in a letter, for I so wish that our eyes were still seeing the same thing. 13
When initially constructed in 1956, BrasĂliaâ€™s matrix of wide boulevards, rigid zoning, and buildings with a uniform aesthetic and precise function was touted as the crowning achievement of the modernist architectural and city planning movement. In reality, however, it has been challenging to reconcile the uses and needs of the city with its rigid and dispersed grid. 15
A bike is the perfect ride home from an afternoon spent spear fishing around the reefs of Cape Eleuthera
Arc de Triomphe reflected in a classic Parisian tourist bus 16
Photo on previous page by Alison DeGraff, Brasília, Brazil; Top left photo by Sam Dawson, Eleuthera, Bahamas Bottom left photo by Hannah Epstein, Paris, France; Photo by Lauren Fritz, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cars proceed as usual through a rainstorm in the streets of Buenos Aires, the photographer takes cover
Movement defines a system For each culture, unique channels, nodes and vehicles constitute a network infrastructure for the circulation of goods, people, information and tradition. Roads, rail, water—rotaries, stations, ports, buses, trams, barges—each take their own form and use according to culture and location. Brasília’s modern planned road networks are a stark contrast to the arteries of Paris’ metro—meshed and winding, delivering passengers through the ancient city to historic landmarks. Motorcycles are the universal vehicle in India’s congested alleys and on the rugged dirt paths outside the metropolises. In the Bahamas, a bicycle is the perfect ride home from an afternoon spent fishing from the pier.
The view from the Eiffel Tower is illuminated by streetlights and passing drivers that make evident Parisâ€™s primary road network (left), the same road network is abstracted and symbolized in this tourist map (right).
Photos on previous page by Hannah Epstein, Paris, France Photo by Nicolas Sohl, Faux Cap, Madagascar
Members of a village dance and sing as they arrive at a celebration in a neighboring village, music and dancing is one of the most popular pastimes and villages proudly show off to each other. 21
A bustling market in â€œOld Delhiâ€?, Delhi, India
Photo on opposite page and top photo by Kyle Hunter; Bottom photo by Cloe Shasha
Riding camels in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
A group of three adults and one baby stuffed onto a motorcycle, Tilonia, India
Locating Slums on the Globalized Map Photo by Emily Allison, Kibera Slum, Kenya
Manila, ! Philippines !
Lagos, Nigeria ! Rio de
Buenos ! Aires, Argentina
Andrea Jones 24
iudad Oculta, a neighborhood located in the southern periphery of Buenos Aires alongside the city’s largest slaughterhouse, is known as a villa miseria, or a shantytown of misery. The name Ciudad Oculta translates to Hidden City, and dates back to the years of dictatorship in Argentina when the military government erected a wall around the neighborhood to conceal the “visual pollution”1 of its poverty from foreign media 2 documenting the 1978 World Cup. Although the wall no longer exists, its legacy of marginalization and social exclusion endures. Forgotten on city maps, neglected by government social services, and considered too dangerous for entry by those who live beyond its narrow alleyways, Ciudad Oculta is home to a community that, according to journalist George Packer, must “scavenge an existence beyond the margins of 3 macroeconomics.” The Argentine shantytown is not the only urban enclave facing conditions of extreme economic exclusion under the burgeoning pressure of urbanization; from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the kampungs of Jakarta, “the majority of the slum-dwelling laboring poor are truly and radically homeless in the 4 contemporary international economy.” The year 2007 marked an enormous shift in global demographics: for the first time in history, the earth’s urban population 5 surpassed its rural population. The rapid urbanization is not expected to level off any time soon. According to a U.N. report, “over the course of the next two decades, the global urban population will double, 6 from 2.5 to 5 billion.” The implications of this mass urban influx, especially in the developing world, are alarming. Under the crushing pressure of unsustainable populations, cities expand into the niches available: the unwanted and unstable
wastelands of the urban environment. Of the 5 billion people crowded into metropolitan areas, 2 billion are projected 7 to reside in slums. In its Millennium Development Goal Indicators, the U.N. defines a slum household as “a group of individuals living under the same roof lacking one or more of the following conditions: access to improved water, access to improved sanitation, sufficient living area, durability of housing, 8 and security of tenure.” The poverty that characterizes and constrains slums like Ciudad Oculta, however, is more profound than underdeveloped infrastructure and scarce resources. Medical anthropologist Paul Farmer discusses the concept of structural violence, through which “historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to 9 constrain individual agency.” In Ciudad Oculta, self-determination and social mobility are restricted by chronic patterns of unemployment, limited access to quality education, and political impotence: the consequences of neoliberal structural adjustment policies. In cities across the
Although the wall no longer exists, its legacy of marginalization and social exclusion endures globe, these economic forces have not only contributed to urbanization, but have also relegated poor rural migrants to peripheral and confining slums. The flood of migration to metropolitan areas, therefore, is not the product of global population growth, but rather rooted in the World Bank and IMF structural adjustment 25
Hidden Cities policies implemented during the 1980s and 1990s that rendered rural lifestyles unsustainable. Attached as conditions to the loans distributed to debt-ridden nations, these policies included the deregulation of national markets and the elimination of pro10 tectionist tariffs and subsidies. Historically, mass migration to cities occurred during periods of high industrialization in which job availability encouraged the shift from agrarian to urban labor. Today, however, it is poor rural conditions that drive the exodus, not the opportunities available in cities themselves. Those cities experiencing the most growth are often those with the most volatile economies. According to urban theorist Mike Davis, “Kinshasa, Khartoum, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka and Lima grow prodigiously despite ruined import-substitution industries, shrunken public sectors and 11 downwardly mobile middle classes.” While policies of agricultural deregulation pushed peasant farmers toward metropolitan areas, large cutbacks in the provision of public services inhibited the economic integration of the new arrivals. The U.N. report claims that “the main single cause of increases in poverty and inequality during the 1980s and 12 1990s was the retreat of the state.” Under pressure from larger monetary institutions, governments retreated by implementing policies of privatization and deregulation, by dismantling welfare systems, and by cutting back spending on crucial projects such as 13 public infrastructure and social services. From these neoliberal reforms emerged the structural violence of political powerlessness, substandard education, and chronic unemployment that perpetuates the social exclusion and economic marginalization of the world’s slums. Not only do slums lack the infrastructure and services usually provided by the state, they are often built upon the sites that 26
require those amenities most. In Lagos, Nigeria, the poorest areas are those with the greatest tendency towards floods. George Packer describes neighborhoods made of “thousands of wooden houses perched on stilts, a few feet above their own bobbing 14 refuse.” The rumbling fault lines of Caracas, Venezuela, create conditions of constant vulnerability for the residents of the slums that have cropped up on 15 precarious hillsides. In Peru, the sand dunes surrounding Lima that support the city’s rural arrivals erode with each passing year. Vulnerable geographic regions are not the only unwanted spaces to which desperate rural migrants flock in search of work; toxic and hazardous spaces have also been colonized at an alarming rate. Overcrowding and desperation have pushed many migrants into what Davis describes as 16 “Dantean districts,” areas “shrouded in pollution and located next to pipelines, 17 chemical plants, and refineries.” Finally, 18 there are the so-called “garbage slums,” shantytowns that have taken root in the refuse dumps bordering cities worldwide. States Davis, slum dwellers are “pioneers of swamps, floodplains, volcano slopes, unstable hillsides, desert fringes, railroad sidings, rubbish mountains, and chemical dumps—unattractive and dangerous sites that have become poverty’s niche in the 19 ecology of the city.” Davis explains that “indeterminacy of land titles and/or lax state ownership … are the cracks through which a vast humanity 20 has poured into the cities.” Reliance on informal settlements instead of low-income housing programs has forced new migrants to be enterprising in their search for shelter. In Cairo’s City of the Dead, “burial site of 21 generations of sultans and emirs,” one million of the city’s poor have taken up residence in Mameluke tombs. Jeffrey Nedoroscik describes the ways in which
Hidden Cities residents have “adapted the tombs in creative ways to meet the needs of the living. Cenotaphs and grave markers are used as desks, headboards, tables, and shelves. String is hung between gravestones to set laundry 22 to dry.” Lack of secure tenure, however, leaves slum residents in a state of constant vulnerability from fear of eviction, or, as has tragically occurred in many cities, government razing of squatter settlements. Political clientelism, a corrupt system in which government resources are accorded to the poor in exchange for votes and political support, is especially rampant in communities that lack ownership rights. Common in the decentralized systems of the minimalist state, clientelism serves to silence the voices of the urban poor. Although public education has the potential to serve as an “equalization 23 instrument” in low-income communities, its acute under-prioritization in many slums due to cutbacks in public spending exacerbates conditions of social exclusion. Finally, the reduction of protectionist policies safeguarding workers has pushed millions into unemployment, cutting off access to the global market and trapping slum residents in structural conditions of chronic desperation. The informal economy, composed of economic networks that operate outside the realm of the global market, is the city’s way of “absorb[ing] the continual influx of newcomers for whom the formal economy 25 has no use.” “Holding onto [the city] by 26 its thousand survival cracks,” the urban poor eke out a living as street vendors, house cleaners, sweatshop workers, prostitutes, 27 transport workers, and scavengers. Such survival strategies often help to sustain the urban economies from which slum dwellers are excluded. Matthew Powers’ article “The magic mountain: Trickle-down economics in a Philippine garbage dump,” describes
the scavengers of the enormous Payatas dumpsite outside of Manila as “occupying a niche like the bacteria and fungi that break down organic wastes in a forest and 28 feed them back into the energy cycle.” Erecting communities within dumping grounds, trash pickers excavate recyclable items such as scrap metal, computer parts, plastic cups, and printer cartridges for 29 reinsertion into the urban system. Without recognition or regulation, however, these workers of the informal economy face oppressive conditions and insufficient incomes. Ten years ago, the
Cities experiencing the most growth are often those with the most volatile economies toxic heaps of Payatas made headlines when a mountain of trash collapsed, crushing to death hundreds of the people that lived and worked in its midst. Despite the fleeting press attention, 30,000 people still make a living at the dumpsite, denied the rights and 30 protections of those whose trash they sort. A common desire is to search for optimism in the struggle of the world’s slum dwellers, as Rem Koolhaas does in an essay written about the garbage slums of Lagos: “from the air, the apparently burning garbage heap turned out to be, in fact, a village, an urban phenomenon with a highly organized community living on its 31 crust.” But, as George Packer responds, “the impulse to look at an ‘apparently burning garbage heap’ and see an ‘urban phenomenon’… is not so different from the 32 more common impulse not to look at all.” Recognizing the role of structural violence in suppressing the agency of the urban poor is crucial in the search for solutions. 27
Photo by Emily Allison, Kibera Slum, Kenya
Policies aimed at improving housing and infrastructure will remain ineffective if chronic joblessness, inadequate education, and political powerlessness persist. As the urban poor have developed innovative strategies for survival in destitute environments, their participation should be utilized in formulating policy to integrate the formal and informal economies and to connect employment to improving infrastructure and housing. Progressive change will require a reversal of the political apathy that has characterized minimalist state governments. As Amartya Sen writes, the “far-reaching powers of the market mechanism have to be supplemented by the creation of basic social opportunities 33 for social equity and justice.” While working at a community center on the edge of Ciudad Oculta, I became acquainted with Carmen, manager of the
center and long-time resident of the villa miseria. Her words have stayed with me: “the Hidden City isn’t hidden; it’s inside the limits of Buenos Aires like any other neighborhood. The name is just an excuse not to pay attention.” Sources (1) Khimm, “The New Republic: The Olympics and Rio’s Poor.” (2) Datos aportados por el Diagnostico de los estudiantes de Trabajo Social, de la Carrera de Ciencias Sociales de la UBA, Nivel II, año 2005, Campo de Practica Pre-profesionales del Centro Conviven. (3) Packer, “The Megacity” 8. (4) Gilbert, “Extreme Thinking About Slums and Slum Dwellers,” 12. (5) Eaves, “Two Billion Slum Dwellers” 1. (6) United Nations Human Settlements Program, “The Challenge of Slums,” xxxii. (7) Bradford, “Growth Spurt.” (8) UN-Habitat, “Proportion of urban population living in slums.” (9) Farmer, “On Suffering and Structural Violence,” 282. (10) JellySchapiro, “Our Dark Places.” (11) Davis, “Planet of Slums.” (12) United Nations Human Settlements Program, “The Challenge of Slums,” 43. (13) Ibid. (14) Packer, “The Megacity,” 1. (15) Davis, “Slum Ecology.” (16) Ibid. (17) Ibid. (18) Power, “The Magic Mountain” 15 (19) Davis, “Slum Ecology” 1 (20) Davis, “Planet of Slums.” (21) Davis, Planet of Slums, 33. (22) Nedoroscik, The City of the Dead: A History of Cairo’s Cemetary Communities, 43. (23) Fiszbein, “Instituciones, provision de servicios y exclusion social. Estudio de caso del sector educacion en Buenos Aires,” 7. (25) Packer, “The Megacity.” (26) Davis, “Planet of Slums.” (27) Jelly-Schapiro, “Our Dark Places.”(28) Power, “The Magic Mountain.” (29) Ibid. (30) Power, “The Magic Mountain.” (31) Packer, “The Megacity.”(32) Ibid. (33) Sen, Development as Freedom, 143.
Photo by Lois Parshley
Keeping the Sea at Bay
On warm evenings, Cubans join together after work and school along the wall of the Malec贸n, a highway on the northern coast of the city, to talk, drink, and fish. They face the stretches of ocean that, 90 miles ahead, lap onto the beaches of the Florida Keys.
Photo by Cloe Shasha
Photo by Cloe Shasha
But on stormy nights with thick gray clouds and high winds, wild currents of water crash over the wall of the Malecón. Aggressive white spray reaches up as high as street lamps, and waves shoot south toward nearby buildings. The formerly blue depths churn into silver and white peaks, and streams of salt water create a slick sheen on the asphalt, driving away traffic. Cars and buses that normally rely on the broad coastal highway instead weave through narrow streets, releasing tired engine sounds and diesel fumes into puddles. During those winter storms, people no longer gather at the Malecón at the end of a busy day. They crowd together indoors, listening to the hum of one of four available television channels, all of which announce what the government wants everybody to know—a means to wash out the sounds of foreign water and wind.
Aces of Air Alison Mail DeGraff
he first time that aircraft were put to the test was during World War I by European countries who employed them for scouting and air-tosurface attack. Six months before the war ended, the United States Congress authorized $100,000 to develop experimental airmail routes in order to determine the feasibility of flight as a means to improve the postal system and after the war, the Postal Office received the war-surplus aircraft and Army pilots claimed the first airmail piloting jobs. On May 15, 1918, the first airmail was flown between New York City and Washington DC but with only primitive navigational instruments and unreliable maps, one of the two pilots became lost and crashed landing in a field 22 miles south of DC while attempting to fly north to New York. Despite this rocky start, in 1918 the Post Office averaged 91% completion of their scheduled flights. The original price for airmailed letters was 24¢ per ounce compared with land mail’s 3¢ per ounce. Throughout 1918 the
price was reduced to 16¢, and then to 6¢, to gain public interest, but few were willing to pay the high rate when airmail arrived only hours earlier than land mail. In 1919, the standard rate was lowered to 2¢ an ounce which finally warranted consideration from the public. In 1920, the first transcontinental mail flight was flown with 16,000 letters. Transporting the mail by plane shortened the travel time by 22 hours on that first flight. As airplane technology improved, flight times quickly surpassed railroad times. Just as importantly, ground equipment technology advanced as well. The first transcontinental flights could only be made in the daytime hours because early planes lacked adequate navigation systems as well as lit landing strips, so airmail was initially loaded onto trains during the nighttime hours. In 1921, the government granted 1.25 million dollars for the expansion of airmail service, especially for ground facilities such as landing fields, towers, beacons, search lights, and boundary markers across the country. At every airstrip
Detroit Chicago New York Chicago Omaha Minneapolis St. Louis Jacksonville Seattle Portland San Francisco Jacksonville New Orleans Chicago St. Louis Minneapolis Omaha Kansas City Fort Worth Omaha
Chicago St. Louis
1919 Rail Mail h m 21 55 27 0 6 50 24 20 38 30 36 54 28 45 29 22 90 0 90 30 90 30 24 40 36 30 22 10 27 55 11 24 12 45 7 25 26 10 13 26
Airmail h m 8 20 8 45 3 0 9 30 15 20 13 30 12 5 11 54 31 54 32 51 35 0 8 56 12 51 8 11 9 30 4 48 5 30 3 6 7 25 4 42
Loading mail on a National Air Transport “Douglas M-2” between cities. As the government no longer subsidized the costs of airmail, rates per ounce rose to 10¢ per ounce for up to 1,000 miles, 15¢ from 1,000 to 1,500, and 20¢ for over 1,500 miles. Thus began the practice of carrying passengers along with the mail to help cover costs for private airmail companies. Soon afterwards the Air Regulations Division began requiring that every pilot and aircraft be licensed and planes be identified as commercial or experimental. When the number of aviation schools rose from 2 in 1926 to 250 in 1929, they began to regulate the curriculum in order to produce safer, better qualified pilots. Air traffic control towers replaced men on the runway waving colored flags as airports grew bigger and busier. The quality of navigational equipment and radios in planes improved and teletype weather maps provided pilots with a better idea of what to expect while in the air. From primitive war aircraft to advanced night-flying and radio-equipped mail planes in the 1930s, the aviation industry expanded and evolved through technological advances and safety improvements to provide more effective and reliable mail transport. Following these years air travel becomes the newest revolution, but it was “airmail [that] blazed the trail for commercial aviation from coast to coast.”
Davies, Airlines of the United States Since 1914 (1972)
and along every three miles of frequently traveled routes, beacons stood upon tall towers calling out their position to the sky. Much like lighthouses, large beacons rotated three times a minute, and smaller beacons rotated once a second. Engineers also added luminescent instruments, navigational and landing lights, parachute flares, and larger fuel tanks to enable longer and nighttime flights. By the end of 1925, the first lighted airway was completed from New York to San Francisco. With this new technology, the service from New York to Chicago transported mail an entire working day faster than land mail, and transcontinental flights got mail to its addressees two to three days faster than along the rails. In February 1925, Congress authorized the Postmaster General to turn over the airmail routes to commercial airlines. With the Post Office’s retirement from the airmail business, it gave its air facilities to the Department of Commerce, including 17 fully-equipped stations, 89 emergency landing strips, 100 electric beacons in between emergency fields, and 405 gas rotating beacons. During the nine and a half years the Post Office operated its own airmail routes it flew fifteen million miles, carried more than 300 million letters, and completed 94% of its scheduled flights. In November 1926, private contractors began to bid for airmail routes
Sources: Madacy Records, A Century of Flight (2004); U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Air Mail Act of 1925-1929 (2003); U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Airmail and the Growth of the Airlines (2003); 35 Davies, Airlines of the United States Since 1914 (1972).
Growing the Future
Spreading the Organic Gospel in New Zealand
Ellie Moore 36
Growing the Future t is afternoon when I arrive at Susie Joplin, her long wispy braid of brown hair and Kevin Lees’ farm in Nelson as a covered with a handkerchief. They have first-time WWOOFer (a “Willing been traveling from England to Ireland Worker On an Organic Farm”) and within to the United States, talking to farmers ten minutes I am already off to a picnic about Transition Towns. The two explain down the road, without even having gotten that Transition Initiatives are intentional my hands dirty. Kevin careens around the communities—often manifesting as country roads, the red jalopy throbbing interested individuals that come together under his manic pedal, and explains that the within a larger context, sometimes picnic we’re going to is a part of the resulting in a separate unified community “Transition Town” groups started in Totnes, —with the goal of leading a more England in 2006 as a community response environmentally conscious lifestyle. The to growing concerns about Peak oil and Transition Towns grassroots movement climate change. The farmers at the meeting aims to “increase [community] resilience we are headed to want to start a Transition (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and Town here in New Zealand, although they drastically reduce carbon emissions are having trouble because their ideal of (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)” communal living and farming conflicts with (transitiontowns.org). certain zoning ordinances. “Their goal,” Kevin tells me, “is to have twelve dwellings The farmers move in a township and the land for working—for in on the cheese, food, firewood, and recreation—but they need fairly deep pockets to start up.” taking modest slices We pull into a turnout and I follow with knotted and Kevin to a grassy paddock where a dozen farmers and their families sit on blankets soil-stained fingers and share their homemade organic breads, and homegrown vegetables, potatoes, When one man at the meeting asks apricots and apples. Every person sports a nervously if it’s going to be “too late” for wide-brimmed hat shading deeply lined positive ideas, I realize how severely the faces, and nearly every man has a large, economic depression has manifested itself white beard. Their clothes are worn to a for farmers here. They are fighting the milk certain softness. Kevin unwraps the block of industry and the industrial-scale agriculture feta he just finished making, and sets it up that stocks grocery stores with cheap with his loaf of bread on a cutting board. produce. For many people, paying up to The farmers move in on the cheese, taking 50% extra during an economic downturn modest slices with knotted and soil-stained for an organic tomato just isn’t worth the fingers. cause. Being principled is often costly, and After everyone has eaten something, one these organic farmers are supporting their farmer stands up to introduce the only two families with hard-earned principles. If people sitting in chairs. Naresh Giangrande going organic becomes an economic is an olive-skinned man sporting a gold impossibility, and if they truly are not earring, cutoff jean shorts and Nike tennis affecting change worldwide by hosting shoes; sitting next to him, his partner, Sophi WWOOFers, then their frenzied and Banks, looks like a country version of Janis laboring days are for naught. Their devotion
Growing the Future to the cause borders on the religious: their Back on the farm I am a sponge, asking absolute belief in organics validates their questions and recording the Lees’ responses. unending toil. Susie tells me they will be cutting off the Kevin, who until this point has been testicles of the ramlings because one of them sitting silently, balled up against a grassy just impregnated their huge ewe-goat. We bank, voices his concerns. “Don Smith, move to the back garden and she explains the tractor guy, remembers the depression, that the big tubs of black molasses are when no one starved because everyone had actually full of seaweed water, rich in a relative who was a farmer. Now what will nutrients for the vegetables. She and Kevin those deep in Auckland, three generations go down to the beach after big gales and fill removed from farmers, do? They will steal their truck with seaweed. from us.” There are some grumbles of I spend the afternoon weeding between disapproval and one farmer says: “there’s a beetroots out back with Biddy, Susie’s friend martial law in the U.S. that if it happens who is visiting from England. The compact they can and will go in and take farmers’ woman reminds me of a cheerful hen, food.” Sophi cuts into the chaos, taking the roosting in the warm dirt between the discussion in a more positive direction, bean-rows. Every time I ask Biddy whether “We want to try to avoid polarizing to remove a certain growth, she first explains conflicts. People need to be able to speak where it is useful. She explains that, “a weed openly before we can be kind to each other. is just a plant in the wrong place.” I can feel It is about economic disparity and political the hard sun begin to bite at my winterdifferences, but we can talk about it as white skin. “There’s always something more ‘our resources’ rather than ‘I’ve got mine, to do on a farm,” Biddy says, “so you just see if I’m going to give you some.” have to do what is most pressing at the given moment.” This is certainly the ruling philosophy “As long as you’re on Susie and Kevin’s farm. There seems to be not aching so much a certain amount of chaos and frenzy each day: goats need to be milked, the compost that you can’t sleep, and fences need to be kept up, and three you’re all right,” meals need to be prepared for everyone working. Susie, with her stoic positivity, Biddy says claims she can keep track of it all, and that I find myself responding to Sophi’s a huge part of it is luck. One afternoon, she hopeful vision of a flourishing organic shows me the entire forest she planted in the community, and searching for my own creek ravine on their property and it seems noble reason to want to be a WWOOFer. to me their inexhaustible energy may be the When I tell the farmers I’m an English more decisive factor. major at college in Vermont, they don’t While Kevin (who built their solarunderstand why I am here, with no heated house) and Susan (who knows the experience in farming at all. When I tell medicinal properties of every plant on the one farmer I’m writing an article about property) downplay their exploits as WWOOFing in New Zealand, he smiles. “necessities,” I sense a certain degree of pride “Oh, so you’re not doing it out of the at their being able to show off the results of goodness of your heart.” their back-breaking work to a stranger. 38
Growing the Future Susie wonders aloud how long she’ll be could phone up the minister. “Now I don’t able to keep up this hectic lifestyle. bother trying to phone officials,” Susie tells “As long as you’re not aching so much me. “I don’t stop fighting, mind you, but that you can’t sleep, you’re all right,” Biddy I’m fed up calling ministers.” says. “What if I can’t sleep from worrying?” Susie asks. Biddy clucks her tongue. “Aah. Then it doesn’t matter how old you are, I’m afraid.” When I ask Susie what she thinks of all Nelson, these WWOOFers flying half way around New Zealand the world to do something “organic,” she says, “it doesn’t seem to be all bad, because they leave with new knowledge. And even if they just learn to plant vegetables, who knows when organic is going to be standard. We may all need to know how to grow our own vegetables soon.” Her tone echoes that of the Transition Town farmers, confident in My first companion WWOOFer on the their consumer-crash prophecy. farm is Andrew, a 47-year-old Canadian She explains that she does not organic man who normally lives on a small organic farm for monetary profit because they often commune in British Columbia. Andrew is don’t make very much from selling at the a staunch devotee of the farmer’s cause, and farmer’s market in the nearest town, Nelson. somewhat of a dreamer; he leaves post-it Kevin tells me they produce enough to feed notes with Buddhist axioms throughout the about ten people, so “if things really hit the house and is always muttering mantras that fan, we could help another family or two.” I feel must be mistranslations, such as “walk Susie says she keeps at this hard, hectic on your hands, eat with your feet.” lifestyle, “in order to stay in touch with the people at the market, and to justify the The compact woman petrol I use to drive down to do genetic reminds me of a engineering stuff in town.” I realize her enthusiasm for this lifestyle is fueled not cheerful hen, roosting only by organics, but also by a sense of in the warm dirt community built upon common principles and a common way of life. between the bean-rows Susie has been an outspoken activist against the genetic engineering of plants and Our days are long: we rise before eight and animals for years, and continues to organize work until sundown. Susie encourages us and work with groups in New Zealand. to take a break when needed but there’s so Every stained and ripped t-shirt and widemuch to be done that it’s hard to take a nap brimmed hat on the farm advocates a “GE when everyone else is hustling to finish every Free New Zealand.” She tells me that New task. Andrew, our manic philospher, reads Zealand is a good place to live and work Rumi poetry while Susie readies the cabbage because it is still small enough to affect and beetroot for lunch. It seems absurd, change. She remembers the days when you somehow, to have poetry in an environment 39
Photos by Ellie Moore, New Zealand
Growing the Future
ruled by practical necessity, an environment in which the lawn chair recliner on the porch is sun-bleached to white but looks like it has never been lounged in, and the trampoline in the back paddock is used for goat shade. What does perk the Lees’ interest, however, is a question I pose one day at lunch: “Does pepper grow on trees?” Kevin practically falls over himself rushing to their agriculture text-book, written “at the turn of the century,” and reads aloud pepper’s Indian origins. I smile to myself; this is what is mystical to these people – seeds and udders and soil. Andrew leaves, and a few days later three new WWOOFers arrive from Maryland. John, Dave and Emily have recently sold their houses and most of their possessions to come to New Zealand and learn how to organic farm because “the world is going to hell and people need to figure out a new way to live.” They have come so that they can start their own farmstead, perhaps in New Zealand, but they have been disappointed by some of the farms they have already visited and heard about. “We are here to learn,” Emily emphasizes, “not just to exchange work for room and board.” Whether it is the home-mulled 40
boysenberry wine, or the sheer number of visitors, my last dinner at the farm is my liveliest meal yet. The stories are rolling about past farms, past WWOOFers, and past strange encounters. One of the other Americans, Dave, calls for a song. John pulls a tuning whistle out of his pocket and blows an F sharp. The newly arrived threesome break into a three-part harmony of a traditional English folk song. As it happens, the song is about Sussex, where the Lees were raised. At the end, Kevin’s eyes are brimming and he applauds loudly, growling, “Just like home.” With a bit of encouragement, and another glass of wine, Kevin sings one that he remembers from the pubs in his younger days. Then he yodels a bit, explaining that his singing range is much improved since he started yodeling – a skill he learned online. He takes us outside to demonstrate the perfect echo he can get off the hills. As we stand clustered together on the porch, howling at the full moon, I understand that there is something larger than fear driving the Lees to maintain their strenuous lifestyle. There is something almost holy about the communion that strangers can share, brought together by a reverence for hard work and soil.
Snippets of Spain Siesta
Photo by Sam Dawson, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy
The streets are emptied of people. The dappled light filters through leaves that have finally reached maturity. It falls undrunk and beautiful on the bricks. Quietly, slowly, the streets have become a ghost town. Inside the cafĂŠs, a world of refugees gathers together to hide from sun and responsibility, to take a furtive drink of freedom from the grind. Bands of sunlight struggle through the haze of smoke that wisps outwards off cigarettes into a collective torpor. Chatter fills the room and they are lazy, so lazy, together in the murmuring afternoon. Unwittingly, I have fallen into this world and I wonder at it, choking on tobacco.
Avenida de la Paz Brown, nondescript benches line the avenida, plunking one after the other with a lovely regularity. They are absurd in their abundance, but if you walk at the right time of day, at the start of siesta or at the crepuscular moment, they are all being used. Bundles of viejos with canes and bifocals and old-fashioned caps billow outwards into the walking space and unconsciously, ironically, slow the young down. I walk, weaving in and around these gatherings, in and out of those moving slowly to join them. Listening to my music, I tuck myself into my own world, a generation and a culture away. I observe these daily, familiar movements and I wonder why it is in routine that we find comfort.
Harvesting Grain Ladakh, India
The matriarch of the family, bedecked in traditional jewelry, rests for a moment during the harvest, the wheat must be harvested quickly before the first frost, so the days are long and tiring 42
A traditional harvest in Ladakh begins by scything the wheat by hand and piling it into pyramids to dry
After the animals have threshed the wheat, this group of women then winnow manually to separate the grain from the chaff. The chaff becomes animal feed, while the grain is ground into flour which will feed the family until the next harvest 45
Copperhead Emily Allison
The Berkeley Pit is a one mile long and half mile wide depression left over from the open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana. When the mine shut down in 1982, the water pumps that had previously kept the mine from filling up with groundwater stopped running and water began seeping into the deep cavity, exhausted of its precious copper. The Berkeley Pit was the largest superfund sight, a federal program which provides funding to safely clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste, in the United States until 1995. At that time, the EPA declared that, due to technological shortcomings, they were unable to remove all of the harmful waste and the site would remain as a sacrificed lanscape. The Pit is currently filled to a depth of 900 feet with heavily acidic water of abandoned mine tailings laden with heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. 46
Berkeley Oh not the one you know Full of sun and flower children But the one I know A toxic blemish On the weathered landscape
I grew up in a wooden house with skylights Nestled in the Bridger Mountains That frame the valley below Guarding the golden, square plots Of farmland on either side My mountains, The Bridgers Catch the rain clouds Make the wheat grow And the snow fall Their pines, crisp with shiny, green needles Sharp and healthy Forced to dance jerkily by the falling rain Or burdened with a clump of snow Or rattled with a passing gust Always settle back to their first position Strong trees With deep, secure roots They are the building blocks The mountains the masterpiece They are intact Unlike those over the pass Butteâ€™s copper mine That once carved up the foothills Stripping them of their precious innards Now abandoned Forgotten by everyone, but the locals Who are left, jobless and heavy With nothing but a dirty reminder
An alien, geometric landscape The flat-topped sand mounds Huddled together Surrounding a monstrous crater The dark, glassy tailings pool White clouds reflecting on its surface Just below, beyond the curtain of sky Lurks a cloudy burnt orange shadow By night, it looks oddly serene The fiery venom no longer visible To a passing flock, a seductive rest stop Their delicate landings barely cause a ripple Before the dark liquid consumes them Mother Natureâ€™s begrudging deceit Berkeley A pit swallowing a town, a culture, a tough people Slowly sinking, with no way out Pastel paint peels from the sides Identical wooden houses Once owned by the Company Steep, comatose streets, ghostly still Tired, browning front yards tired of fighting to survive All decaying This depression Their mother, their lifeblood, Their ultimate demise
s Bank the of
the Gan ge s
Kyle Hunter 48
Varanasi, or Benares, as the city is known to residents, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth; the city’s mythology describes its founding by Lord Shiva some 5,000 years ago. Benares’ history and culture are embedded in its deep relationship with the River Ganges, a snaking line of 1,500 miles originating in the Indian Himalaya and eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The river at Benares, deified by many Hindus in India as the goddess Ganga, remains an extremely important pilgrimage site. The city’s unique physical geography—between the confluences of two rivers (the Ganges and the Varuna)—also informs Benares’ sacred geography; the city occupies a space of constant death and rebirth. Thousands of devout pilgrims come here each year to die and millions come to bathe in Ganga’s waters, reputed to wash away a lifetime of sins.
Bathing in the waters, however, carries a high physical risk. As the human population grows (the river supports nearly 400 million people on the subcontinent) and industrial run-off increases, the River Ganges has come under too much strain. The water contains 29,000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters although the Indian government suggests a safe level for bathing to be 500 or below. As women splash their children with river water and kids leap from the ghats into the current, remnants of burned corpses are carried down riverâ€”there is a more ominous aspect to these holy waters. Despite the grim statistics, however, there is some reason to have faith the Ganga will experience her own rebirth as a healthier river system. Numerous efforts to clean up the River Ganges are underway and the Indian government announced in February 2010 that Benaresâ€™ culture are embedded in by its 2020. deep The relationship with the $4 billion history would beand invested in cleaning up the river following photographs, River Ganges, snaking oflife 1,500 miles, the Indian Himalaya taken in January a2009, depictline daily on one of theoriginating worldâ€™s mostinsacred and most endangered rivers.emptying into the Bay of Bengal. and eventually 50
A pair of boys make the hike to fly their kite in better winds
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas
Following a Polar Explorer to Antartica
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas
he water was cold. At only one degree Celsius, it was twelve degrees warmer than the air. I sat shivering in the back of a black rubber Zodiac. White mountains pierced the gray sky overhead and reflected in the dark water. No one spoke, silenced by the extremes. A man stood waiting for us to land, his ratty beard frost-slicked. He silently tied our anchor line to a small iron post hammered into the permafrost. Rocking in the dark swells, I could do nothing but stare as each wave swept frazil ice chunks against the Zodiac. I was sitting beneath these towering mountains because of Robert Swan, renowned arctic explorer and active environmentalist. He had gathered our group of sixty students from around the world, bringing us to Antarctica to see the physical impact of global warming on the continent, hoping to inspire us to preserve this wilderness. We had no idea then how much the world would soon change before our eyes. We had arrived just north of the Russian research station at Bellingshausen on King George Island in northern Antarctica. In 1820, Russian naval officer Captain Thaddeus Bellingshausen braved the shifting ice shelves after circumnavigating the Antarctic continent. After barely surviving on the high seas and perilously low on supplies, he arrived at 69° 21’S, 2° 14’W, becoming the first person to reach the Antarctic mainland. Upon his arrival, his curt observation of this long-hidden land was of “an ice field covered with small hillocks.” My breath freezing into needles at the same coordinates two hundred years later, I understood his terse description. The landscape was shockingly foreign. Debarking from the Zodiac was like walking into a chiaroscuro painting, all blacks and whites and shades of gray. The beach, the rocks and the ice were
dramatically stark. Walking was treacherous. Layers of black ice covered the small pebbled beach, and slippery exoskeletons of krill littered the rocks. Shadows lingered along walls of blue-gray icebergs, each at least forty feet long and one hundred thousand years old. The dark gray sea was reflected in the glossy outer melt runnels, while the inner translucent layers caught the sunlight in rays, piercing hundreds of feet of ice to illuminate the black pebbles trapped beneath. Once we had all slipped out of the Zodiac, we followed the still silent man. An Adele penguin colony startled at our approach, and thousands of birds tilted their necks back, crooning at the sky. These small penguins were almost hidden among the rocks, bandit’s black stripes painted around their eyes. The rocks near their rookery were coated in a soft pink scat, colored by their diet of shrimp, krill and small fish. The relief of seeing color was offset, however, by the overwhelming stench. Some people gagged while others laughed, pulling scarves up around their noses. I focused through watering eyes on the small black pebbles in my path. Around the point of the landing, the Russian research station came into view. Its twenty bright orange trailers were vibrant against the muted landscape. A quaintly shingled church perched above the science station on a sheer rock outcropping, a mounted cross black against the grey sky.
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas Inside, the church was thickly carpeted with dust. The Russians, we learned once we met someone who spoke English, had shipped the church in boxes thousands of nautical miles south to Bellingshausen along with a Russian Orthodox priest. During the voyage, the priest and the scientists quarreled over the question of when the earth began. Once constructed, the church was sanctified yet empty. The priest stayed in the church and the scientists stayed in the orange trailers; Russia claimed the whole arrangement was a colony. Antarctica, we learned, was a place where strange things happened. Countries maneuvering for the future control of resources created bizarre scenarios. It was a confusing and unstable place. Even when we left Bellinghausen for other research stations with better English speakers, our confusion only grew. The Chinese science station proudly displayed signs for the “Great Wall Gift Shop,” and the Ukrainian station proclaimed the ownership of “The Southernmost Bar in the World.” The bar had bras left behind by tourists pinned along the bar counter, oddly reminiscent of a tropical destination for college spring vacations.
Antarctica is a place touted as one of the last inaccessible wildernesses, yet it was visited by 37,522 people last year. The booking season for Antarctic tours opens on July 31, a Quark Expedition Manager later informed me, and each year at 12:00 EST there are scores of travel agents waiting anxiously to schedule their tours for the preferred dates. The “last pristine “wilderness” is now accessible to titanium-steel-plated luxury boats outfitted with wave stabilizers for those willing to pay the staggering tour price. Antarctic ocean traffic jams occur frequently during peak season. Passengers are forced to wait at sea while each stabilized ship, scattered like pieces on a Monopoly board, attempts to maintain the pretense of isolation. Seeking our own sense of extreme isolation—something tourists rarely truly experience—our small group left the research stations and all evidence of human existence behind. Away from the science stations, bars, and gift shops, our eyes adapted to the omnipresent whiteness. We hiked on the continent and watched ancient glaciers calve. These giant pieces of ice falling into the sea created tsunami-sized waves, and the gunshot sound ricocheted off the fjords, echoing off some of the tallest mountains in the world. We dreamt in whites, we woke in blackness. Every night, the Milky Way splashed a neon pathway across the sky. We slept on ice islands, built trenches to block the frigid wind and hoped that curious fur seals wouldn’t join us in the night. In the mornings, leopard seals, giant ominous beasts with slit nostrils and squinted eyes, followed our Zodiacs with the hopes of an easy breakfast. Bellingshausen Station, Antarctica
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas
During these days, Robert led us up glaciers and away from crevasses. As the first person to have ever walked to both the North and South poles, Robert is a front-runner in polar exploration. When a force nine gale and sixty foot swells rocked our small research vessel for days in the treacherous Drake Passage, he was one of the few who did not succumb to vomiting. A properly British man, he just puffed up his chest and walked around the ship, booming, “Keep calm, carry on.” Not without struggles during his career, he endured third degree burns and his irises bleached from prolonged exposure under the ozone hole during a seventy-day exploration to the South Pole. After that trip twenty years ago, he made the decision to dedicate the rest of his life to preserving Antarctica and combating climate change. Robert walks stiffly from an old back injury, leaning forward with his arms angled
out. Watching him at an Adele penguin rookery, I laughed at the similarity between his movements and the penguins he has fought so hard to protect. A man who has accomplished as much as Robert should be a household name, and his life story is certainly media worthy: Poor young man sets off to defeat the odds and accomplish his dream, endures immense dangers, sets a world record, and dedicates his life to saving the planet. Yet, Robert generally refuses to speak to reporters. It is hard to take a man who signs off his text messages “xxx Rob” seriously; but this man is a hero, recognized by the Queen of England with an Order of the British Empire. On our last night in Antarctica, Robert had us sleep on a small unnamed island, protected from the open ocean by only a shallow channel of water. The brutal wind whistled shrilly, numbing my hands that were buried within a bivy sack and tripled 55
Photos by Lois Parshley, Antartica
Shifting Ice, Rising Seas
sleeping bags. In the morning we woke with the dawn, the sun turning the cold dark channel into a glowing bridge of light. The white surrounding us was transformed into glowing rose, the shadows streaks of shocking magenta. The tips of the mountains were butter yellow, and the clear old ice in the bergs we passed going back to the ship shone in multicolored prisms. We might have been the first and last people to ever see that island. Two days later, as we were re-crossing Drake Passage, the Wilkins ice bridge broke. The Wilkins ice bridge had connected Charcot Island and Latady Island in the Bellinghausen Seaâ€” the last intact portion of the northern edge of the Wilkins ice shelf. Warmed by increasing sea temperatures, the bridge began to melt rapidly, the warmer water creating runnels, then fissures, and finally crevasses until the whole bridge thunderously caved in on itself. The rush of water and scattered bergs swept away from the ice shelf towards the island where we had slept, in a thunderous and terrifying heralding of what is to come. When we first arrived in Antarctica, the mountains around Bellinghausen had seemed too large to take in. It seemed 56
impossible to comprehend this place where the strangeness of reality surpassed imagination. Out of sight of land in a small vessel on a warming ocean, we heard the news that the ice bridge had broken. It was only then that the trip became real for me, as I realized how easily my own life could have ended on that tenuous ice island, floating in the most rapidly warming place on earth. At that moment, the reality of Antarctica and climate change hit me full force. The harsh landscape we had just left, the innumerable actions taken around the world that warmed the ocean and melted the ice, the complex science and fragile workings of our world: it all seemed so unfathomable. Antarctica seemed like a place that humankind had barely touched, still as mysterious today as it was in 1820. Yet the collapsing of the ice bridge assaulted my illusion and detachment. Antarctica was no longer unreal and far away. The large-scale destruction of warming oceans and the complexity of climate change science and politics no longer seemed abstract. On the boat that night, the air seemed crisper, the outlines of things doubly sharp, and I could see vividly our global peril.
Morocco Vibrant Contrasts in North Africa
Brilliant sky and the distinctive geometry of Moroccan architecture meet in the Desert city of Marrakech 57
The distinctive blue wash of Chefchaouen, in Northern Morocco at the base of the Rif Mountains, is a tradition that emerged from the cityâ€™s Jewish population
Photo on previous page by Sam Dawson, Marrakech, Morocco Photos by Nathan Edwards, Chefchaouen & Essaouria Morocco
Essauria is a small town that has become known for its art. The town is painted all white and in the summer, artists from around the Mediterrianian traditionally ‘rent’ a small room and ‘studio’ in a house where they can sell their art in exchange for painting a mural on the outside of the house. By the end of the summer the whole town is a collage of murals which only adds to the beauty of this seaside town. Once the artists leave the houses are again painted white in the winter until another artist comes and paints a new mural. 59
Running across the dunes of the eastern Sahara in blue jeans and a keffiyeh 60
Photo on opposite page by Meaghen Brown, Morocco-Algeria border Photo by Sam Dawson, Casablanca, Morocco
â€œThe throne of god was built on water.â€? The Hassan II Mosque, in Casablanca, is the third largest in the world and juts into the Atlantic Ocean so that worshippers can pray directly over the sea 61
Traditional Moroccan dyes juxtapose the muted shells of turtles for sale at market A girl reaches across the tomatoes for a piece of khobz, traditional Moroccan flat bread
A man from Fez prepares for a date by picking up sweets at a local bakery
Top left photo by Nathan Edwards, Morocco; Bottom left photo and right photo by Meaghen Brown, Fez, Morocco
Editor-in-Chief: Peter Spyrou ’10.5 Editors: Alison DeGraff ’10.5 Nicolas Sohl ’10 Emily Allison ’10 Roman Mardoyan-Smyth ’11 Kyle Hunter ’12
Cartographers: Alison DeGraff ’10.5 Roman Mardoyan-Smyth ’11
Photo by Kyle Hunter, Ganges River, India
Assistant Editors: Elianna Kan ’10.5 Max Kanter ’10.5 Ben Zorach ’10.5 Marty Schnure ’10.5
Photo Editors: Nicolas Sohl ’10 Sam Dawson ’10.5
Photo by Peter Spyrou, Phumzor, Bhutan
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Middlebury Geographic Spring 2010
Photo by Kyle Hunter, Ganges River, India
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