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MIDDLEBURY

GEOGRAPHIC

Spring 2011


Photo by Andrew Podrygula, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA


Middlebury

Geographic Spring 2011

Madison Kahn

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Matt Cherchio

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Jennifer Marks

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Forgiveness in Cambodia

Daniel Loehr

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City on the Edge

Connor Wood

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One Hundred Klicks West of Cooktown

Becoming Dog

Dogsledding in Vermont

Life in the Clouds

Learning by Doing in Ecuador’s Cloud Forests

Identities and Borders in El Paso

Photo Essays

Mapping Projects

9 China, Imagined

19 Mapping the Colorado River Basin

Michelle Fechtor

Noah Brautigam & Colin Struthers

24 Buggin’ Out

32 The English Barn

Moria Robinson

Roman Mardoyan-Smyth

Cover Photo by Michelle Fechtor, Paris, France. Inside Cover by Michelle Fechtor, Le Bon Marche department store, Paris, France.


Photo by Andrew Podrygula, North Dakota, USA.

From the Editors: Spring is taunting us here in Vermont as we go to print with our fourth issue of Middlebury Geographic. The 2010-2011 academic year marks our first effort at a biannual publication, and we think the results speak for themselves. Middlebury students have a passion for knowledge in all its forms, and we believe these pages serve as a testament to the careful attention our peers give to place and experience. They submit photographs, personal narratives, and academic work from their journeys to the other side of the globe and just as importantly, to the other side of Addison county. Our fellow students are thoughtful and intensely curious about the nature of the world we share. As editors, we find ourselves stitching together experiences that are diverse and thoughtprovoking: dog sledding just down the road from Middlebury College, sampling fish head stew in a Hangzhou alleyway, and analyzing the geopolitics of water in the Colorado River Basin, to name a few. Rather than focus on a specific theme or single area of the world, the articles, photographs and maps in this issue of Middlebury Geographic are tied together by their authentic tone and search for meaning. They call into question common assumptions, and ask us to engage with our environments in new ways. We hope that the following words and images capture your attention and provide new insight into the challenges we face, and the sheer beauty of the planet. Enjoy the journey! Sincerely, Kyle Hunter & Roman Mardoyan-Smyth

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Photo by Madison Kahn, French Ridge Hut, Mt. Aspiring, New Zealand.

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Becoming Dog Madison Kahn

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Becoming Dog The last and sharpest turn came out of oday was the day. I had been training for three weeks with nowhere. I threw all my weight on the brake Lissy Heminway, one of Vermont’s finest and at the last second, leapt off the runner to dog mushers and the Shoreham woman I'd steer the sled around the corner. We were goappointed as my guide into the world of dog ing too fast. When I hopped off —or more acsledding. Everything—the wipeouts, the tan- curately, when I was thrown off—my fingers gles, the adrenaline—led up this point. All lost their grip around the sled’s handlebar and that was just practice. This was the real deal. I plowed into a snow bank, just barely missing This was my time to take ownership of the a tree. The sled raced on in front of me, and I yelled to Lissy as I plummeted into the snow. sled. It was time for the dogs to trust me. Pulling into Lissy's driveway, I looked at A good three seconds passed before I my car’s thermometer and cringed when I attempted to get up. I sighed. I'd failed. Evsaw negative seven. It’s going to be fine, I told ery other time I had nailed that same turn— probably because with another person with myself. I am tough. I met Lissy near the dog pen, where she me the sled hadn't been going as fast—but had already laid out both sleds and harnesses. this time there just was not enough weight. “A lot of the brass clips have frozen up,” I ran up the trail to Lissy who was waiting Lissy yelled over the dog’s excited howls. “You with my dogs in hand. She could see the might have to spit on them like this.” She disappointment on my face. showed me and I mimicked her, missing the “Don’t worry about it,” she yelled. “You’re not a true musher until you wipe out big!” clip the first couple times I tried. Minutes later the dogs were all hooked up I chuckled. “That big?” I said, pointing to the huge hole in the snow I'd been flung into. and itching to go. “Ready, Maddie?” Lissy asked from her “Of course. I still wipe out on that turn all sled in front of me. I nodded, gulped, and the time.” Lissy always knew how to make me pulled the rope free, hearing a distant but feel better. Was she saying I was a true musher then? I wasn’t sure, but she was definitely reassuring, “You’ve got it” in front of me. This time Lissy didn’t warn me of certain hinting at it. That was good enough for me. branches or boulders or creeks, but let me I didn’t have any major wipeouts the rest find them on my own. She'd prefaced the run of the ride, though there was a close call. I with a short reminder of two upcoming sharp tried to take another tough turn in the way turns, repeating her typical phrase, “You’ll get that Lissy had shown me. Leaning into the it…you know how to do it.” Her confidence turn at just the right moment, I took one was all I needed. Lissy never once doubted me foot off the sled to steady myself but I flew (or at least not to my face), and by now I was off the sled once again. This time though, I confident enough in myself to take whatever was able to stay on my feet, and I grabbed the she threw at me. If Lissy didn’t think I could handlebar before the dogs sped up. I laughed, do it, she wouldn’t have brought me out here. thinking I must be a doubly good musher I immediately noticed the difference now that I’d had two falls. Luckily, Lissy between having one person and two people didn’t even notice. on the sled. With only my weight to pull, Once we were in the field we flew, going the dogs raced through the first half-mile as fast as twenty miles per hour down one of woods as if they were chasing a rabbit. I particularly steep hill. I was hooting and holnailed the first few turns and bumps and my lering without being fully conscious of it. I couldn’t contain myself; it was just too much fun. confidence soared, perhaps a little too high.

T

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Becoming Dog I saw Lissy’s sled stop up ahead and I slowed down to see what was the matter. “You wanna do something really fun?” Lissy called out to me. “Yeah!” I yelled back. I couldn’t refuse. “We’re gonna break a new trail today!” she said. “Hawww, Tinder!” Lissy ran out in front of her dogs, grabbed hold of Tinder, her lead dog, and walked him away from the trail and into the woods. He fought her at first. “Once he has an idea in his mind, it’s really hard for him to change that,” Lissy had told me. Lissy with the dogs. Eventually, though, Tinder got the hang of it and Lissy assumed her position. Breakheard Lissy telling one of her dogs earlier. As ing a new trail is extremely difficult for the soon as Gilly had straightened out, Petra, her dogs and the musher. Instead of staying on running partner, became tangled. Unlike the sled, we pushed it through untouched Gilly, who had dealt with the uncomfortable snow that came up to my knees. Every time I situation smoothly, Petra freaked when she hopped on the sled for just a second, my lead got caught up in the lead line. I remember dog, Glassy, gave me the eye. Lissy telling me Petra was her most skittish Panting with exhaustion, the dogs and I dog, and I finally understood her. were happy to get back on the normal trail. We had put in some good work and were All the dogs were magical, ready to head home. I stopped a few times I knew, but Petra clearly had for Gilly, whose leg kept getting tangled in the lead line. “You can do it Gilly. Come a little more mystique on!” I encouraged her, repeating what I had

than the rest.

Ve r m o n t

Addison County Shoreham

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As I tried to slow the dogs down so that I could stop and fix Petra, she whimpered in pain. I was worried. “Petra! Petra! Calm down!” I said soothingly, but it didn’t help; she kept whining. I threw my ice anchor into the snow and ran over to fix the problem. By the time I reached her, Petra had somehow gotten free of her harness! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had trouble getting the harness on all the dogs, and Petra had managed to get it off in a matter of seconds. She is magical, I thought to myself. Lissy had told me earlier about Petra and her mysterious ability to slip through fences and harnesses as if she were smoke. All the dogs were magical, I knew,


Photo by Andrew Podrygula, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA

Becoming Dog

Petra, looking for some love after breaking new trail.

but Petra clearly had a little more mystique than the rest. Finally, I was able to calm Petra down enough to get her harness back on. I looked up at Lissy. She had been silent the whole time, but now she smiled—the biggest and brightest smile I had seen yet—and nodded at me, as if saying, “You did good, kid. You did good.” I guess I was on my way to becoming a musher after all. As we pulled into Lissy’s backyard, she gave me a high-five. “Congratulations,” she said. “You did it.” I didn’t quite understand what she meant. I did what? I completed my solo trip? I hadn’t taken any more spills? I didn’t want it to mean what I thought it meant—that I had become a musher—because that would mean that my training was over. That would mean the end. It wouldn’t be goodbye forever. I would probably mush again later in the week, but since I had grown so close to these dogs

during my training, I didn’t want to leave them. I loved them, maybe not as much as Lissy did, but in my own way I did love them. After three weeks, I knew each and every one of their names and could even point out certain differences and characteristics in each dog. Uma and Moki were the playful giants, strong and athletic, but lacking in the brain department. Ziggy was the troublemaker that none of the dogs really liked, but all she wanted was attention. Tinder was the big brother and one of the alpha males. His sister, Glassy, was much more complacent and shy than he was. I could go on forever. I realized that every one of them was magical. Over the past few weeks, the dogs had let me in on their secret. They took me on an adventure to another world—a hidden place, a place that one can only get to on a dog sled. Perhaps the magic was the silent splendor of the woods, or the soft pitter-pattering of the dogs’ feet on the snow-packed trail, or the occasional bark that meant, “Let’s go!” 7


Becoming Dog

Perhaps the magic was in Lissy. Whatever it was, that magic became a part of me on the trail, just as the dogs did. I guess you could say it was in my blood.

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China, Imagined

Michelle Fechtor 9


Previous Page: View from Huangshen (“Yellow Montain”) in Anhui province, China. This page: Mirror Lake, in Jiuzhaigou (“Nine Village Valley”), a UNESCO world heritage site in Sichuan province, China.


Landscape in China

C h i n a Jiuzhaigou

Huanglong Hangzhou Huangshan

Above: Tea terraces near Hangzhou are known for a special (and very expensive) type of green tea called longjing, or “Dragon Well.” Below: Fish head stew in a xiaochi (“snack”) area of Hangzhou. The alleys are lined with vendors dishing out their favorite delicacies.

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Five Flower Lake, also in Jiuzhaigou, northern Sichuan province.


Life in the Clouds:

Learning by Doing in Ecuador’s Cloud Forests

Matt Cherchio

Photography by Maria Lloyd 14 14


I

Life in the Clouds

t’s 11am in Ecuador, and in the past 36 hours the group of students I’m traveling with has slowly hopped its way plane-byplane towards the sprawling city of Quito. We’re anxious to begin our Middlebury Alternative Breaks (MAlt) trip at an ecological reserve outside the city, and to complete the last portion of a seemingly endless journey. On the ride away from Quito, our bus driver maneuvers through the hectic traffic, talks his way through a roadblock, and finally attempts to climb the unpaved, three-mile road to our destination, only to get stuck before reaching the first twist in the road. We hadn’t been in touch with our hosts up the mountain—part of living “off the grid” includes no landline, and cell service isn’t exactly reliable in the cloud forest. I tentatively stepped down from the bus into the thick air, and spent a few moments considering the long haul up the hill and the possibility of borrowing a neighbor’s horse. I looked down to see my white sneakers sink deeper into the mud, and my thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable hum of a diesel engine. Seconds later a blue pickup appeared hobbling down the hillside. An old man emerged from the truck dressed in high rubber boots, blue sweatpants with a matching raincoat, and a well-worn baseball cap. He motioned to the driver and before I could say hello, we were back on the bus, driving down the road to a waterfall for the first of many lessons on ecology, education, and life in the cloud forest. Our teacher was Oswaldo Haro, and few people feel as passionately about conservation as he does. Along with his wife Mariana, he has dedicated his existence to educating others on how to produce life rather than destroy it. The couple purchased the 206 hectares they now call Bombolí nearly 31 years ago, after the original cloud forest that had once stood

there was razed to make pasture. Despite the hardships they have faced over the years sequestered from the outside world, Oswaldo and Mariana wouldn’t trade their lifestyle for any other. In order to earn money to support her family, Mariana began making homemade cheeses and chocolate spreads to sell in nearby towns. In addition to maintaining the land at Bombolí, Oswaldo earns a living by planting organic gardens for farmers around Ecuador. The Ecuadorian government has never assisted the conservation effort at Bombolí, but the couple prefers it this way since they don’t care for the deceptive politicians or ineffective governance they believe prevail in their country. Together, the couple has enough stories to fill volumes. Oswaldo casually speaks of the years he spent walking from Argentina to Ecuador and the time he was nearly burned to death chasing trespassers off his property. When we ask him why his neighbors wanted to set fire to his land, he explains the process of charcoal making that burdens the fragile area. Many of the region’s poor earn a meager living by clearing patches of forest and burning the fallen wood to make charcoal. This practice has not only decimated large areas of cloud forest, but is also one of the leading causing of mudslides in the region. Without the vital root systems needed to hold the ground in place, the perpetually wet soil is prone to loosening, triggering the frequent slides. Mariana tells us stories of the countless cars their driveway has claimed, and the numerous adventures she has had driving her children to and from school for years. The laughs they share while relating these stories reflect a deep happiness that has made the costs of so many ordeals more tolerable than one might imagine. The cozy mountainside home they live in is made primarily of recycled materials from the property, and consequently has the feel 15 15


of a continual work in progress. There is no electricity and the water comes from a nearby stream. Mariana and Oswaldo travel into a nearby town once a week to pick up food, propane, and some basic household items, but manage to get by on very little. Despite their undeniable need for supplies from the outside world, they make the most of the resources already available to them in the forest. Oswaldo knows the medicinal uses of countless plants and claims to be able to make most things from a fallen piece of wood. He has also developed a clever method for growing crops using recycled tires as plant beds. Oswaldo believes that nature can provide for everyone when treated correctly, which requires reducing human impact and learning to reuse the many things already available in nature. Based on how well Mariana and Oswaldo live, I could see the truth behind their philosophy that challenges the wasteful consumerism that has seemingly pushed our planet to its carrying capacity. Cloud forests, like the one in which Oswaldo lives, cover a rapidly shrinking fraction of the globe. Without these habitats, many areas of the world would be under great strain. Simply defined, Oswaldo gives a lesson amidst giant ferns and gunnera plants.

Quito

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Approximate distribution of cloud forests in Ecuador

these rare ecosystems are evergreen forests that fall under near constant low-level cloud cover, in part due to their altitude. They serve one of their most important functions as watersheds. In other areas of the world, snowmelt, glaciers, and rain provide the fresh water so vital to downstream communities and ecosystems. In warmer climates and at high altitudes, cloud forests, which are rich in leafy plants and mosses, condense water vapor from the humid air and transfer it to the ground below. This moisture converges into streams, which become rivers that weave their way through the mountain valleys of Ecuador. The water-rich environment of the cloud forests also play host to many species of flora and fauna that aren’t found anywhere else on earth. Hundreds of different orchid and bromeliad species populate the trees and hillsides. Gigantic fern trees and gunnera plants dominate the patches of virgin forest and give the landscape a prehistoric character. Oswaldo doesn’t believe that global climate change will drastically affect his chosen habitat, but this doesn’t mean that


Life in the Clouds provided by an institution like Middlebury, he argued that the teachers of the world have failed my generation by devaluing practical knowledge. During our long walks, Oswaldo taught our group about different plants and the ways in which materials around us could be recycled at no cost. He put us to work fixing the road to the house that had been badly damaged by a recent mudslide, and in the garden we made soil and planted herbs and vegetables. Through using our hands, we helped Oswaldo and Mariana protect the local forest, but we also learned the value of our own labor. The wisdom that Oswaldo has gained in his 70 years of life is not the result of the “fake knowledge of supermarkets or fantasy,” as he once explained to us, but rather a real wisdom that he has Many creatures, like this salamander, can only make their home in cloud forests. cultivated from years in pursuit of functional knowledge. It goes they are out of danger. The fertile soil found below the forest floor is ideal for farmland without saying that the world was not transformed by the work my group did in Ecuador, and pasture, and the abundant wood attracts but I was. Relatively few students have the those seeking to make a quick dollar on opportunity to learn such important lessons charcoal. Cloud forests now cover a small fraction of the total area they once did, and from people like Oswaldo and Mariana. Their example is one that could be shared without the necessary efforts to educate others about their importance they will continue to by many to enact transformations the whole world over. disappear at alarming rates around the world. Throughout our weeklong stay, Oswaldo Oswaldo referred to the cloud referred to the cloud forest as a “living university” of practical education that forest as a “living university” compliments the highly theoretical classrooms From rescuing a fallen flower to preserving of the world. Although Oswaldo claimed to see meaning in the theory-driven education an old stump as a home for thousands of species, Oswaldo and Mariana’s efforts show 17


Life in the Clouds that simple actions add up in the long run. Change starts in small places. The deep satisfaction that results from the uninhibited pursuit of a dream, and an existence dedicated to living in balance with the planet, rubbed off during my stay in BombolÏ. More than anything else however, Oswaldo and Mariana are a reassuring example for those idealistic students who seek to make the world they’ve inherited a better place, in spite of the challenge, such a lofty goal presents.

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Colorado River Basin

Mapping the Colorado River Basin: Visualizing the Politics of Agriculture

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Noah Brautigam & Colin Struthers

he Colorado River has been a centerpiece of western development in the United States since the first American settlers carved out settlements in the American West during the late 19th century. Today the river is the most regulated and developed river-system in the world. Ready access to freshwater was necessary for continued westward expansion in the U.S. The issue of access was not a problem in Eastern states, where heavy precipitation provided the necessary freshwater for agriculture, city growth, and subsequent population boom. The AmericanWest, however, was different. John Wesley Powell—the first man to travel the length of the Colorado River—aptly noted that the region surrounding the river was largely a desert, and irrigation would be necessary to create any sort of sustainable society in such an arid climate. Powell’s observations were prophetic, and today the river is the most important source of water for large agricultural economies in the US and Mexico, as well as urban growth in both countries.

“First-come, first-serve” politics have been the foundation for all water rights policy enacted in the West. While certain treaties and laws have separately defined what constitutes water ‘rights’ on the river, they are all worded as exceptions to the underlying principle that it is the right of the first user, or of the upstream entity in some cases, to use streamflow as they see fit. To see the consequences of this process, we used GIS and remote sensing technologies to correlate changes in water use, allocation, laws, and infrastructure development to changes on the ground, mainly in terms of agricultural scale and health of crops. We outline a brief history of the basin, as well as some of the issues facing the U.S. and Mexico concerning large agricultural complexes in both countries that rely on streamflow and irrigation from the Colorado River. Engineering the River John Wesley Powell led the first full-scale exploration of the lower Colorado River in 1869. His observations of the surrounding desert climate documented the first intimation 19


that the waters of the Colorado were going to be necessary as the lifeblood of any agricultural or urban expansion in the region.Unfortunately for the first people to move westward across America’s frontier, this was not a matter of simply using the water, it required harnessing the entire river. Small-scale attempts by settlers to divert and dam the Colorado began in the late 19th century, but these attempts were inconsistent and unstable. The lack of success in controlling the Colorado River during these early years was due to the river’s heavy silt content and its sudden and drastic floods. The river is one of the siltiest in the world and can clog irrigation canals, raise the salinity of agricultural soil, and even change the course of the river as the silt builds up in certain areas. Industrial-scale engineering was required to provide the kind of consistent freshwater availability that is necessary for agriculture and urban growth. 20

Following completion of the first diversion channel constructed in 1901 by the California Development Company, development of the valley exploded. However, problems began only three years after the canals became operational: the main cut from the river and all the subsequent cuts quickly silted up, cutting off all flow to the crops in the valley. The next four years were some of the wettest on record in the basin, and the problems faced by developers immediately changed. The subsequent floods crashed through the irrigation cuts instead of following the course of the main branch, and sent almost the entire flow of the Colrado River into the Imperial Valley. Instead of causing loss of interest in agriculture in the basin, the resulting devastation brought new sources of funding —both private and federal—to the region. After intense political jockeying between the states, the Hoover Dam and All-American Canal were built, revolutionizing the entire water system. Construction on these projects started in the 1930s, and began a long tradition of industrial-scale engineering of the Colorado River. The damming of the river, however, changed the entire river system’s ecology. The environmental problems stem primarily from the river’s heavy silt content settling out in the standing water of the reservoirs. The water that is released is clear and cold, creating a markedly different environment from the one which the river’s native species adapted to long before human engineering.


Early on, the word ‘conservation’ meant the efficient use of natural resources, not the preservation of natural environment. Nationalist ideas of ‘reclaiming’ the frontier and the subsequent economic drive for large-scale projects during and after the Great Depression created an atmosphere that offered little opposition to these projects. Early Policy The extensive reclamation of the arid western desert has been a long battle against the forces of nature. Unfortunately for all those involved in this development, the battle against nature was not the only fight to be won. Political battles occurred during every step of development, with different special interests vying to secure the most water possible for their country, state, region, or individual farm. These were not unforeseen problems. Powell, after extensive travel in the region, wrote a document titled, A Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, published in 1876. Presciently, Powell predicted future problems with the western expansion being encouraged by the U.S Government. His argument that “in the west, where the one thing that mattered was water, states should logically be formed around watersheds…To divide the west any other way was to sow the future with rivalries jealousies, and bitter squabbles whose fruits would contribute solely to the nourishment of lawyers” was insightful. The Colorado River has turned into one of the most regulated and litigated rivers in the world. From the outset, the federal government was involved, and as infrastructure developed in the early 20th century, a scramble ensued to utilize as much water as possible. The ‘prior use’ doctrine practiced by most states caused endless conflict and settled nothing definitively until the Colorado River Compact was drawn up in 1922. The Upper and Lower Basins were defined, and each was allotted 7.5 Million Acre Feet (MAF) with an

additional 1 MAF allowed for the use in Lower Basin development. This initial agreement set the stage for continued legal debate and reallocation between states for years to come. The only party completely ignored during this initial process was Mexico. By the time they arrived at the bargaining table, America’s development and use of Colorado River water was in full swing. The prospect of allocating enough water for Mexico to adequately supply the Mexicali Valley was bleak. In an attempt to fight this inequality, the Mexican government furiously encouraged agricultural land and water infrastructure growth in an attempt to augment its ‘prior-use’ water claims before the completion of the Hoover Dam. In 1944, despite protest from the basin states, the federal government proposed a treaty guaranteeing Mexico 1.5 MAF annually, twice what they had been using prior to the Hoover Dam construction, but far less than projections of future development needs. Case Study: the Imperial Valley The Imperial Valley was once an arm of the Gulf of California, and lay at the mouth of the Colorado River, receiving a build-up of silt as the river flattened, nearing its delta. This geological process shaped the future of the region by eventually shifting the Colorado River eastward to lower ground, and leaving a thick bed of mineral-rich soil behind. Additionally, much of the Imperial Valley was left below sea level, allowing for gravity fed irrigation on a large scale. The potential of the Imperial Valley did not go unnoticed as development of the American West began in earnest in the late 19th century. The powerful and heavily funded California Development Company (CDC) took advantage of the initially proposed irrigation project using the dry channel of the Alamo River, and agriculture in the region was in full swing by the turn of 21


Farm Bureau estimates that two-thirds of the vegetables consumed in the US during the winter are grown in the Imperial Valley. While this is a point of pride for the Farm Bureau, it is a stark reminder that a majority of Americans rely on food produced at least half a continent away, in a region that is a desert, and by farm workers who are largely undocumented workers from Mexico. The Landsat images help to show the agricultural giant that the region has become. They illustrate disparities in crop health The border between the Imperial Valley in the United States (top) and Mexicali Valley in Mexico between the different (bottom), shows the clear delineation in crop health between the two countries. The All-American Canal can be seen flowing into the Imperial Valley from the east. This is a clear illustration of the regions in California, unequal geopolitics at play in the region. Arizona, and Mexico the century. The Alamo Canal had its own that rely on Colorado River water for problems, and was replaced by the All-American irrigation. Canal in the 1930s, which irrigates more Conclusion than 450,000 acres of cropland in the Imperial Valley, by carrying 3.0 MAF of Development of the Colorado River is continuing and the river is being put under freshwater annually to the fields. This is in comparison to the 1.5 MAF that is allotted increasing stress, as demonstrated by the urban and agricultural growth in the to the entire country of Mexico. Such a large disparity in policy, water allotment, and water Imperial Valley, the Mexicali Valley, and the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District use can be seen clearly in the crop health and Yuma Irrigation District of Arizona. In images we have gathered in this study. Today, the Imperial Valley is a huge more recent years, climate change has exacexporter of agricultural commodities. Through erbated these issues; the future flow of the unrelenting push to exploit all possible river is dangerously volatile as the snowpack of the Rocky Mountains becomes more land and water resources, the farming interests in the Imperial Valley have become an unpredictable. integral part of the American agricultural Our Landsat images show the product of a century and a half of attempts to control the supply structure. The Imperial County 22


Colorado River Basin waters of the Colorado River both physically and legally, and in the true spirit of the fast-paced American growth model, development of the basin has been focused on each political entity involved grabbing as much water for themselves as possible. Little thought has been put into creating a sustainable system of water use, especially around the U.S.-Mexico border region. The images we have collected show that the 1.5 MAF of water that Mexico was promised in the Treaty of 1944 is not enough for the farmers of the Mexicali Valley to maintain crop health at the same level of American farmers immediately to the north. This raises the question, how much is enough water? Based on our research and the Landsat images we have collected, we have concluded that it is less a matter of giving the bare minimum, and more a matter of making the water rights equitable. The more water that is passed on to Mexico, the healthier their crops will be. Farmers in the Mexicali Valley are This chronological series depicts cropland in the Yuma Irrigation District, the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District, and the eastern edge of the Mexicali Valley in Mexico over a 26 year period. There is a stark contrast in the overall cropland health. Despite their efforts, the Bureau of Reclamation cannot control the highly erratic hydrological cycles of the Colorado River Basin. The Basin has been plagued by persistent draught since 2000, even as agricultural development and use has intensified.

much more dependant on natural stream flow, while farmers in the US are able to maintain crop health even in low water years through control of reservoir releases. Policy reforms for the Colorado River Basin may have positive effects on the sustainability of American agriculture, relationships with Mexico, and the long-term health of North America’s most important river system. August 1993

August 1984

August 2010

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Buggin’ Out! Moria Robinson

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Previous Pages: A Katydid Nymph (Family Tettigoniidae). Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. This Page: Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor). Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

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Above: A water strider insect (Family Gerridae). Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Below: A Fritillary butterfly (Family Nymphalidae), nectaring on composite flowers. Eastern Washington State at a rest stop off I-90.

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Forgiveness in Cambodia

Jennifer Marks

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seen women wearing turtleneck sweaters and gloves in hundred-degree heat. In the rural areas, many Cambodians had never seen an American in person before, and would tell me I looked just like Britney Spears, or Rambo.

Cambodia

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Phnom Penh

hi

am walking through the dirt-carpeted aisles of an open air Cambodian market, amidst squawking chickens and women carrying woven baskets full of roasted beetles. I have run out of body wash, and I came to Psar Orresuy to buy a new bottle. The problem is, I can’t find a single product without “skinlightening” bleach listed in the ingredients. I begin to get frustrated, and I walk up to a young Khmer woman behind one of the cosmetic stalls, asking her in slow, broken Khmer why every product has this ingredient in it, pointing at the Dove bottle in my hand. She leans over the stall and pulls back the fabric of her long sleeve, holding her arm up against mine, breaking the barrier of personal space that doesn’t seem to exist in Cambodia. She smiles as she sees that my tanned skin is actually darker than her hidden, pale arm. Chattering away in fast Khmer that I don’t understand, still with a smile plastered on her face, she attempts to erase the disgusted look on mine with further explanation—but the explanation is clear. All over Cambodia I had

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400 km

th


Forgiveness in Cambodia There are countless implications of these over two million Cambodian people. cultural comparisons, but I took one After a history defined by betrayal and war, overarching, surprising lesson from these one would expect Cambodians to be angry interactions as I began to realize the or resentful; after being blanket-bombed by quality that defines the Cambodian people: America, one would not expect Cambodians to bleach their skin in accordance with forgiveness. our exported beauty standards. The more I Cambodia’s recent history is nothing less than horrifying. In 1953, Cambodia gained learned about Cambodia’s history, the more I felt uncomfortable about my position in its independence from a century of French colonial rule. From then into the early 1970s, narrative. Cambodia was under the rule of a dictatorial I visited the Cambodia Landmine monarch, Prince Sihanouk. Under Sihanouk, Museum outside Siem Reap, where the shelves hold thousands of rusted landmines Cambodia preserved neutrality during the that have been collected since the war. Most Vietnamese war, but during the late 1960s, of the landmines displayed plaques that American B-52 bombers, using napalm glaringly read “Made in USA.” Landmines and cluster bombs, killed over 700,000 are inherently cruel weapons, and as I walked Cambodians in an attempt to destroy the Ho among the piles of missiles, I realized how Chi Minh Trail and North Vietnamese supply lines. Then, in 1975, the guerilla communist permanent and dispassionate they are. They do not distinguish civilians; they do not party, the Khmer Rouge, gained power. The disappear once a war ends. Landmines still Cambodian people celebrated in the streets. Their celebrations, however, were tragically pepper the Cambodian countryside, and I had been warned by locals in rural areas to ironic, as the Khmer Rouge embarked on an never wander away from roads or trails— organized genocide that ultimately murdered Shelves of human skulls serve as a reminder of the horrors perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.

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A hiking trail in Kilcrohane passes through sheep fields as it approaches the coast.

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Victims’ portraits taken during the genocide, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

taking note of blood-red signs that warn “DANGER! MINES!” It has been over thirty years, and yet unexploded ordinance still remains a major issue in Cambodia, with hundreds of accidental deaths still occurring every year. One wall of the museum was entirely covered with photographs of children with missing limbs—children who had innocently stepped on a piece of metal and were immediately and permanently distorted. The non-profit museum was rehabilitating and educating the children, who had little or no access to health care. Reports state that the United States dropped 2,756,941 tons of bombs and mines on Cambodia from 1965 to 1973 —before the nation was even at war. What’s more, the United States continues to refuse to sign the Ottawa Treaty, the international agreement to ban the use and production of anti-personnel landmines. Standing next to a pile of American 30

missiles that were larger than my body, it seemed ironic that Cambodians would want look more like white Americans. Despite the role the United States played in Cambodia’s broken and violent history, Cambodians are not resentful of Americans—they are, in fact, welcoming. This attitude seems to reflect the power America’s image holds in many developing countries. Numerous U.S. foreign policy choices negatively affected the Cambodian people, yet they still desire to learn English and assimilate into Western culture—even if it means bleaching their skin. This is a disturbing paradox: Cambodians have taken forgiveness to a new level. As an American travelling through this raw and beautiful country, I felt intensely grateful for the uncritical kindness and openness Cambodians expressed towards me. This forgiveness characterizes the Cambodian spirit. Cambodians have forgiven Americans in the same way that they have forgiven their own people. On the outskirts of the capital, I visited Choeung Ek, the most famous of the “Killing Fields.” Thousands of similar fields are scattered in the Cambodian countryside. During the genocide, the cities were evacuated and their inhabitants were trucked into the countryside where they weare forced to work in labor camps. Following the communist model of Mao’s China, people were murdered for being intellectual, religious, or if they were suspected of resistance. At Choeung Ek alone, over 17,000 people were executed in graves that they dug for themselves. A massive stupa marks the entrance to the memorial, filled with over 9,000 human skulls stacked on shelves. One shelf in the stupa holds hundreds of small, child-sized skulls that are shattered and cracked. Piles of victims’ clothes lie on the bottom shelf; butterfly-printed dresses caked with dirt. I stared up at the stacks of human bones and the piles of torn cloth and felt 27


Forgiveness in Cambodia absolutely empty. The horrors depicted here were beyond my comprehension. The site is an official national monument, but it is raw and unrefined. It is nothing like the American museums I am used to, where artifacts lie behind glass and everything appears pristine and untouched. Our guide led us to the Killing Tree on which a plaque reads “Chankiri Tree against which executioners beat children.” A nearby picture depicted children being thrown into the air above the pointed guns of soldiers, to fall into a grave where over 400 were buried. The tree is scarred and bare where the soldiers beat the children. Towards the end of our silent tour, our guide bent down at one of the graves and showed us his open palm full of dirt. “Every rainy season, more bones of the victims are unearthed,” he said. In his hand were human teeth. On that same day, I made my way to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. A former high school, Tuol Sleng was used as a torture center by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Although it has been decades, Tuol Sleng remains just as eerily unrefined as Choeung Ek. Standing in cells where iron shackles remained fixed to the wall and blood stained the floors, it was difficult for me to believe the blood was not fresh. My tour guide described the events that took place in Tuol Sleng with a monotonous calm. “Prisoners were routinely beaten and tortured with hot metal instruments and hanging, as well as methods like waterboarding, suffocation, and rape…” she recited. Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, was the former leader of Tuol Sleng. During my time in Cambodia, he was tried for his crimes against humanity by the United Nations war crimes tribunal. The Khmer Rouge was overthrown three decades ago, yet this marked the first trial of a former senior member. During the trial, prosecutors stated that Duch had ordered the use of brutal torture methods to 28

extract confessions from prisoners and that he had approved all executions—they directly connected him with over 14,000 deaths. On July 26th, he was found guilty and sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison. At 67 years old, he could potentially walk free one day—a fact that many Cambodians were angry about, given the brutal crimes that he committed. However, at his trial, Duch asked survivors to “please open a window and let me ask for forgiveness,” and many of them have. I later asked the woman I stayed with in Prek Pdao, a rural village outside of Phnom Penh, if she was angry or resentful towards Duch and his inadequate conviction. She said she had forgiven Duch, and that hatred towards him would not bring back the lives of those lost. In Buddhism, she explained, the practice of forgiveness is believed to eliminate self-harm and cultivate a balanced soul. Bicycles are everywhere in Cambodia; sometimes they are a little big for their riders.

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Photo by Prof. Anne Knowles, West Cornwall, Vermont.

The English Barn

Roman Mardoyan-Smyth

T

he English Barn, also known as “the thirty-by-forty,” “the three-bay barn,” or sometimes just “the barn,” is a common presence in America’s northeastern landscape. These barns were named after their first builders, the English colonists, who arrived in southern New England in the early 17th century. Their new barns bore close resemblance to the historic barns of southeastern England, sharing similar form and dimensions. Traditionally the barns were about thirty feet by forty feet, and were divided into three sections called “bays.” They had a simple gambled roof and a single, south-facing pair of large double doors that were either hinged or sliding.

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While the barns largely remained identical to those in England, the colonists made some adjustments to adapt to the colder climate and plentiful resources. For example, the single center doorway was adopted to reduce the number of openings which, in turn, kept the barn warmer in the colder months. The barns could be further adapted for the cold climate by adding boarding to the inside of the barn and stuffing hay inside the new wall, which served as a crude form of insulation. The English colonials also preferred to build with hardwoods, which better resisted rot and increased the lifespan of the barns. The abundance of resources in the region also led to the adoption of wooden shingles, instead of thatching, for the roofs. The English barn was the ideal structure for settling colonists because of its relatively small size and simple construction. Often larger than the settler family’s house, the

29 Illustration Credit: Fred B.Kniffen, from “Folk Housing,” in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Dec. 1965.


The English Barn The English Barn in the Northeastern Landscape

% English Barn 11-25 26-100 0

100 Miles

(After Noble 1982)

three-bay interior allowed grain to be threshed in the open center bay, and then stored in one of the side bays. The other side bay was used to store a very modest number of animals or tools. The barn often had loft spaces above the bays and in some cases was lifted a couple feet of the ground, or cribbed, to create another storage space below. The floor of the center bay was built of long wooden planks, on top of which the grains were threshed. Threshing is the process by which farmers removed the desired grains from the grain stalks by laying the stalks out on the floor of the center bay and striking them with a long-handled tool until the grains were loosened. The grains were then winnowed in order to separate them from the smashed stalk, known as the chaff. Both the chaff and grains were thrown in the air— while the grains quickly settled, the chaff was blown away through the open center doors. These grains could then be stored in one of the two side bays, often in built in bins. Farmers housed their animals in the

barn was able to hold everything they needed for the harsh New England winters: they could stable their animals, store their food, and still have room to work through the winter. The English colonists first brought their barns to the southern coastal colonies of New England, which has some of the densest distributions of English barns along the coast. As colonial settlers migrated northward into western Massachusetts and Vermont, Sowing and Planting they brought the Milking adaptable English Aug Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July barn with them. Fertilizing Haying Tapping for Maple Syrup This diffusion is N reflected in the high density of English barns that stretch from Connecticut and Rhode Island CARRIAGE BAY north-ward into Vermont. The barn was best suited for subsistence-level farming of grains, as it was too small STORE BAY ANIMAL BAY to support any large form of livestock or other agricultural farming. The typical 10 Feet

Crops Harvested Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Storing Firewood

HAYLOFT

(Calendar after Knowles)


The English Barn

Benjamin Haskell’s Farm in 1870 The land: 29 Acres of Land: 20 Acres Improved 9 Acres Wooded

Barn

In the barn: Livestock: 1 Horse 2 Milk Cows Stores: 7 Tons of Hay 400 lbs of Butter 20 Bushels Peas and Beans 140 Bushels of Irish Potatoes

eastern bay, which was warmed by the sun in the winter. Dairy cows and horses could be kept in this bay, each separated by a rough barrier. Farmers could store hay in a loft above the animals to make feeding simpler and provide extra insulation for the animals during winter. Manure from the animals would often be kept either under or along the east side of the barn. When all the grain was stored away for the winter, the center bay was used to store tools and a wagon, if the family was wealthy. The space could also be used as a sheltered workspace, where farmers could repair their tools and work on smaller projects through the winter. While time spent in the fields was seasonal for the subsistence farmer, time in the barn was year-round. In the spring the farmer would go in and out of the barn taking manure to the fields and planting the new crops. In the summer the barn was busiest, as 34

the farmer filled the lofts with hay. During the fall, the farmer would work in the fields harvesting his crops and in the center bay threshing of grain. In the winter the fields lay empty, but the farmer would still be at work in the barn daily, feeding the animals and milking his cows in the side bay, and working on other miscellaneous projects in the center bay. While English barns were often used for subsistence farming and located close to one’s house, this was not always the case. In West Cornwall, Vermont, there is an exemplary case of an English barn that dates back to 1810. In 1870, Benjamin F. Haskell, resdent of West Cornwall and local wool and woolens dealer, owned the English barn, but lived three houses down the street, a long walk during a Vermont winter. Based on the agricultural census it would seem that Haskell’s main use of the barn was to house his horse, two milk cows, food for the three of them, and his own winter stores. As owner of a local store, it has been speculated that part of the barn may have served as sort of storehouse. Today, Mr. Haskell’s English barn serves a different purpose, being used as a space for table tennis and storage. This has been a common fate for most English barns as their agricultural function becomes obsolete. Indeed, while most of these barns do not serve their original purpose, they can still be found throughout the Northeastern landscape, repurposed as garages and small houses. And if one looks hard enough, one might find an English barn being used in its traditional manner, cows and all.


City on the Edge

Identities and Borders in El Paso

Daniel Loehr

Photography by Amanda Pertierra

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City on the Edge And lastly, if you venture 20 blocks west and a few North from downtown El Arizona Paso, you arrive at the Rio Grande flowing towards Ne w Me x i c o the Gulf of Mexico. The far bank is in New Mexico. Depending on where you are Te x a s El Paso situated in El Paso, the Rio Juarez Grande represents one of Sonora two borders: between Texas and New Mexico or between Chihuahua Texas and Mexico. Part way through the city, the river 0 100 200 km Coahuila bends north and becomes a state boundary, as the f you walk ten blocks north from the flat international border formerly on the Rio center of downtown El Paso, you begin Grande continues west on a land route to the to ascend the Franklin Mountains. These Pacific Ocean. mountains are the southernmost tendrils of the If you meander aimlessly through the streets, Rocky Mountains, spanning the Continental you will notice the cactuses that speckle the Divide from the Canadian to the Mexican landscape. The sandy earth announces, desert. border. Part way up the ascent, Rim Road— You will hear Spanish. You might not hear smooth asphalt decorated with a plethora of English. You might not believe that you are multi-million dollar homes—snakes around in the United States, as El Paso is reminiscent the mountain ridge. of a city in Latin America, and shares little in Ten blocks south of downtown, you’ll find common with most conceptions of a typical Segundo Barrio, one of the nation’s poorest zip American city. codes. Segundo Barrio is a crowded patchwork of cracking brick churches, bustling homes, El Paso lies at the most western tip of Texas and abandoned school buildings—spotted and as its name suggests (meaning “the pass”) with brown parks, busy tienditas, and tortilla its geographical location was no coincidence shops. South of Segundo Barrio you find two in its origin. Its location on the border, and in large walls and the Rio Grande: The Border. historically disputed land, has shaped the city’s cultural dynamics and highlighted El Paso as The sandy earth announces, a contentious point of international “concern.” desert. You will hear Spanish. Its proximity to Mexico has contributed to the growth of the local ranching industry, the You might not hear English. smelter industry, and various illicit economies 50 blocks east from downtown El Paso, a that grow up around certain borders. El Paso warning sign welcomes you to the Fort Bliss sits in the center of mountains, borders, Military Reservation. To call this tract of land military bases, and international conflict, and “vast” is an understatement; it is a military yet remains decidedly on the edge, culturally reservation larger than the state of Rhode and geographically. Island.

I

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City on the Edge The origins of El Paso’s colonization are international boundary, the Rio Grande, cut the found in 1598, when Spanish conquistador pre-existing city in half, politically dissecting Don Juan de Oñate crossed the Rio Grande the land in two. The city to the south of the with 400 soldiers and 270 women and river took on the name Ciudad Juárez and the city to the north took the name El Paso. children, settling in the mountain pass. This Although politically separate since 1848, quickly became known as El Paso del Norte or quite literally, “The Pass to the North.” The the cities of Juárez and El Paso have remained location at a pass in the mountains made it intricately connected. Originally, the border easier for Spanish expeditions en route to was nothing more than the water that flowed easterly in the Rio Grande. Crossing into Santa Fe, and the proximity to water (the Rio the United States required just a short wade Grande) was of particular value in the desert. or swim. Even a century after the Mexican“There is no iron-curtain American War ended, it appeared there was still no animosity or synthetic separations. In here. The only curtain 1955 an El Paso native wrote, “There is no between our cities is an iron-curtain here. The only occasional curtain between our cities is an occasional curtain of occasional curtain of dust.” dust, not man-made. Cooperative, friendly El Paso del Norte was Spanish territory relations exist between us and our esteemed Mexican neighbors.” until Mexican independence in 1822. The area Fifty years later, a physical iron curtain fell under Mexico’s control for a short period when, in 1848, the city once again changed appeared. In those fifty years El Paso became hands. This time to the U.S. as they won the a major point of geographical interest to Mexican-American War and set their southern the United States in the name of homeland security. With the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and border at the Rio Grande with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This made El Paso del rampant fear of future terrorism, government Norte the border town that it is today. The new organizations saw the border as a weakness in El Paso lies at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in the westernmost corner of Texas.

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City on the Edge national security. As the largest border town Ciudad Juárez, is considered the world’s most in the U.S. (600,000 people as of 2010) El dangerous city based on per capita homicides. Paso received ample resources to build fences The ephemeral and volatile narrative of El and hire more border patrol. Today, a mesh Paso’s nationality begs the question of whether fence runs across the city’s southern limits, or not land is something that can be justly permeable to sight but not to (legal) travel. owned. The multiple changes of the city’s ownership taunt the perceived permanence of Despite the fence, the cities feel connected to one another, as their populations and cultures a border. The dichotomy between the divided migrate back and forth, legally and illegally, cities feels unnatural; the emergence of a literal iron curtain represents a troubled effort to solve across the border. El Paso’s proximity to Mexico has also a problem that dates back to the days when the influenced much illicit economic activity, as first maps were made and land was claimed. The border seems like nothing more than an the different laws (and degrees of enforcement) are conducive to making a hefty profit. imaginary line of imposed power. El Paso has continually transformed itself Currently, the El Paso border could be seen as in unique ways with different peoples, names, a swap shop for guns and drugs. Guns, which economies, and ways of life. Recently, the are far more difficult to purchase in Mexico, borders that surround the city, rather than make their way from the U.S. to end up “south the contents of El Paso itself, have created its of the border.” Narcotics, which travel from the eccentric identity. Though the city is easily interior of Mexico and other Latin American confined on a map, El Paso’s true character nations, make their way north across the border. defies borders. The dynamics of this swap shop have lead to tumult, and currently, El Paso’s other half, Looking across the U.S.–Mexico Border into the city of Juarez.

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One Hundred Klicks

West of Cooktown Connor Wood

It is a land of dust and fire. A black kite circles overhead, tiny in the cloudless sky. A plume of dust rises into the sky, diesel exhaust and sailing soil. The anthills are over two meters tall, and thin like daggers. Termite mounds are short and squat. Most of the time, they are the only hints of life. The three Land Cruisers bounce down a straight road, going about a hundred, slowing only to let kangaroos cross or to navigate patches of sand soft enough to sink the trucks. Faded browns and yellows flicker by outside, grey-green leaves droop from the gnarled trees. We cross what’s left of the Kennedy River and set up the tents. The grass is long and yellow but along

the bank the trees are still green and birds chatter in the branches. It hasn’t rained for nearly eight months and it won’t for at least one more. The white sun bakes the earth; the soil dries and cracks, the leaves hang limp, the grass withers and dies, the few waterholes are full of crocs. As the heat wears on, giant conflagrations erupt and walls of flame march across the land before collapsing to dust and ashes.

A u s t r a l i a Lakefield National Park

Cooktown

Queensland

0

250km

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We wake at dawn because once the sun is up the tents become ovens. We have nothing planned and none of us know what time it is, but we’re hungry, so we make breakfast. In the burned areas everything is black: the world has come to a fiery end. Grey smoke hangs dead in the air. Hot winds blow aimlessly across the ground, reigniting smoldering trees. Orange flames waver in the air and collapse. There is nothing left to burn.

The sheer enormity is startling, for laid out on the plains is an existence far greater than that of a single human body. The savannah changes so slowly to acacia forest to paperbark depressions to savannah to grassy plains to savannah that landmarks must be made deliberately; they do not present themselves. The vast continuity induces a deadly somnolence, lulling the traveler into walking blind. In this country, the easiest possible thing to do is get lost and die. It would be a fire that burns even in Abaddon. It would uproot my entire harvest. – Job 31:12 When it rains, it rains and rains and rains and rains and rains. The muddy trickles become roaring raging rivers and crocs are everywhere and bull sharks swim deep inland, killing even when they aren’t hungry. The plains blossom furiously green, quivering with life as the plants grow frantically for three months. Lakes and swamps appear across the plains along with massive flocks of ducks. Then one day the clouds no longer appear on the horizon and the land reverts to its palate of dry browns. 40

The horizon melts in the wavering heat and the land disappears into forever. The sheer enormity is startling, for laid out on the plains is an existence far greater than that of a single human body. At first the imagination shies away from this infinite frontier, casting about for something bigger, as if by conceiving of something greater, the brain can contain and subdue the land. But if some shifting apparition takes shape in the mind, a shadowy conception of something somehow bigger than the bush, it is still dwarfed by the sky. Palest blue, faded and worn along the edges, everpresent smoke, the sun white hot and still so distant, sliding across the sky before disappearing over the horizon; the


Photo by Lois Parshely, Queensland, Australia

mute immensity of the sky yawns ever above. Before the sun is even gone, the stars emerge, filling the sky with new light. As dusk turns to deep violet, they grace the night like “silver dust, each suspended at its particular and inalterable height and depth, so bright and close. And so the mind must concede that nothing at all is bigger. The ocean at least has sides and a bottom. But this, this could never end. And so the land takes you into the fold. Before dawn, some of us go fishing. We walk down to the cataract where the river pools and deepens, and we cast lines out into the dark water. We wait on the rocks, eyes closed, fingers on the lines. On both sides of the river 38

is a broad pitted plain of conglomerate rock, matted in some places with bleached algae, proof of the river’s latent might. We catch nothing but find a dotterel’s nest on the walk back, just two speckled eggs lying on the rock. The sun is still below the horizon. There are no days here. The continuous Present quickly melts into an amorphous and indistinct Past. The sun rises and sets without any temporal significance: We live two days every time the sun crosses the sky: We wake at dawn and by midday, it is too hot to do anything but sleep in the shade, so we do, waking again when it cools off. Then later the sun sets, and then later the campfire burns 41


out and we go to sleep again. By the second day of each day, we cannot remember exactly if we did something during the first day of that day or the day before or the day before and we begin to understand that it doesn’t actually matter.

At dawn, we pack up and leave. Ten days have passed. Or maybe five years. We learn things, real things. How to make a fire: grind a pit into the edge of a piece of yellow fig, fit a stalk of treegrass into the pit and spin the stalk between your palms, tilt the stalk while spinning to drop an ember out onto dried grass. How to make rope: strip the bark off a vine, strip the inner bark off that bark, take two strands together, put them between your palm and thigh, rub hard. How to make a boomerang: spend days and days sanding and shaping and sanding until your fingers cramp, until the wood feels and flies like a feather.

The Aboriginals understood this dissolution of time and space and used the two concepts interchangeably. They had just five numbers: one, two, three, teken (four to about ten), and mob (more than teken). For forty thousand years, that was sufficient. Here, where space is infinite and time is circular, existence is organic, cyclical and mutable. All things ebb and flow. Rather than a straight line advancing forever away from its roots, imagine existence as a fountain. Every aspect, every infinitesimal component rises to its apogee, hangs glittering for its moment, then falls, and is reborn to rise again. There are no echoes here; sounds slide through the sere grass and around the acacias and over the charred logs and on and on and still there is nothing to bounce back the whispers so they dissipate into the sky. Life moves slowly, ever so slowly until the single moment when it erupts violently— the fires, the floods, the crushing jaws of a croc exploding from the murky water— and immediately subsides. It will rise again, sometimes as part of a vast cycle, sometimes

Careening through Lakefield National Park in an old Landrover, Queensland, Australia.

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A dust storm, the biggest in seventy years, has grayed the sky. The sun shines vaguely behind the pall, softening the shadows and flattening the world. It sets, and rises a dull yellow. During the day the dust drifts north. To the eye that sees not the subtle multitude of life, it is a vast violent empty nightmare place where men have come and gone chasing dreams, a place of commonplace cruelty. The eye that sees the tiny red-backed wren chirping in the grass sees this, but it sees beauty too. A place where the world is as big as it seems. Fires fill the western sky with smoke and the sun sets blood red behind orange haze. At dawn, we pack up and leave. Ten days have passed. Or maybe five years. Stillness in our wake. The grass crumpled by our tents slowly unfurls and dust settles in our tracks. A flock of black cockatoos alights in a dead tree and begins to feed. A snake crawls through the desiccated grass. It is a land of dust and fire.

Photo by Lois Parshely, Queensland, Australia

simply because things happen, sometimes because circumstance dictates. The specific time is unknowable, but the resurgence is an immutable certainty. We give ourselves over to this ponderous inevitability and find relief in the release.


Pinhole of Pulp Mill Bridge

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Photo by Madison Kahn, Mueller’s Hut, Mt. Cook, New Zealand


Kyle Hunter ’12 and Roman Mardoyan-Smyth ’11 Editors-in-Chief

Editors: Madison Kahn ’11 Kathleen Gill ’11 Alex Geller ’12 Mellisa Mittelman ’12 Noah Brautigam ’12 Cailey Cron ‘13.5 Jeniffer Marks ’13 Ricky Chen ’13 Gracie Watrous ‘14

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Photo Editor: Andrew Podrygula ’12 Cartographer: Roman Mardoyan-Smyth ’11 Advisors: Lyn DeGraff, Reprographics Jeff Howarth, Geography Dept. Sponsors: Student Government Association Geography Department

Photo by Roman Mardoyan-Smyth, Havana, Cuba.


Photo by Madison Kahn, Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand

Join the Adventure!

Middlebury Geographic has three central objectives: (1) to showcase students’ academic research (2) to encourage academic collaboration among students (3) to present geographic concepts to the interested layman If you enjoyed this issue and would like to be a part of the next edition, please e-mail us at mg@middlebury.edu Check us out online at: go.middlebury.edu/middgeog

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Middlebury Geographic Spring 2011

Photo by Madison Khan, Approaching Mount Cook, New Zealand


Spring 2011