Category Archives: Nature, the environment & landscapes

Southeast Asia’s forests: vital and vanishing

Forests are key for our food systems and our economy. Forests are a pantry for the world’s poor, and an incubator for biodiversity and unknown genetic material that could lead to vital scientific discoveries. Even those of us who think we live in urban environments may be more dependent on forests than we realize. Continue reading

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On a Javan volcano, tourists and brimstone

The mountain path was wide but steep. Tourists carried backpacks with water bottles and snacks, seeking exercise and fresh air. Meanwhile, local porters carried woven baskets, carefully balanced on bamboo rods, overflowing with impossibly lemon-yellow hunks of stone. Welcome to … Continue reading

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Volcano’s awakening a reminder of Indonesia’s vulnerabiility

On Thursday night, Mount Kelud, a volcano in eastern Java, blew a plume of smoke and ash 17 km into the air. The eruption shook the surrounding villages, which were soon covered in ash and rock….
In recent history, Indonesia has suffered more deaths due to volcanoes than any other country, or even volcanic region…. Continue reading

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Public works are too little, too late as the rainy season strikes

When it rains, it pours; in Jakarta, it floods. Last night I awoke to a familiar sound from our bathroom: drip … drip … drip. I was surprised that I could hear it over the pummeling of rain on our … Continue reading

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This cat is not meant to be a pet

At the Bird Market in Jakarta, you can find (and buy) hundreds of domestic cats. This cat is not one of them. The man who was selling it called it a “forest cat,” but we believe it’s an Asiatic Golden … Continue reading

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As birdsongs fill Jakarta’s streets, Indonesia’s forests fall silent

A noisy chorus of birdsongs enlivens Jakarta’s dirty, crowded streets. In this city, birdcages hang from telephone wires, tree limbs, and awnings. I see dozens of caged birds a day in Jakarta: canaries, thrushes, doves and lesser-known wild songbirds of … Continue reading

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The closest point to the sun

Chimborazo, a volcano in central Ecuador, happens to be the closest point to the sun on Earth. Because the Earth bulges at its center, the volcano’s proximity to the Equator makes it the farthest point from the center of the … Continue reading

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Climate change comes to the Andes

Today we saw firsthand some of the effects that climate change is already having in the Ecuadorian Andes. We are staying in a tiny town called Chugchilan, in a remote area of the western Andes. We love the hostel we … Continue reading

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Where the Amazon meets the Andes: Papallacta

In 1541, Francisco de Orellana became the first of the Spanish colonists to record a journey down the Amazon River. To do so, he first had to cross the eastern cordillera of the Andes. This weekend we crossed of the … Continue reading

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Our Weekend with Whales

Humpback whales are experiencing a resurgence. By the 1960s, when whaling was outlawed by the International Whaling Commission, there may have been as few as 5,000 in the world. Now there may be as many as 80,000 – still just … Continue reading

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