bangladesh

All posts tagged bangladesh

This is ridiculous.  I’m having the worst time ever getting to the online version of this issue.  I’ve had to log in twice now. My browser used to keep me logged in and I used to be able to just get to it by searching Google for the issue number.  Now all I can get while logged in is a photograph of the pages.  When I try to get to the text version, it keeps telling me “This National Geographic content is only available to subscribing members” and gives me a link to a login screen.  And I can see that I’m still logged in behind it.  I’ve actually sworn at this thing.  Twice.

Well, I guess I’ll have to make the best of this bullshit.  I’m not happy, though.  Having to zoom in to read the text is a pain in my left buttock.

In other news, I did make it to an average of 8,200 steps per day for May, finally.  I couldn’t remember if the number I got on the final day of the month was the final count, or if it would drop at midnight, so I put in a couple thousand extra steps so that I had one day of wiggle room.  I ended up with 8,467 steps on average for the month.

Bloody Good, by Elizabeth Royte, photographs by Charlie Hamilton Jones

I got a kick out of the title that the website gives this article, Vultures are Revolting.  Here’s Why We Need to Save Them. The mental image of vulture revolutionaries amuses me.

Bloody Good focuses on the life and current plight of vultures in Africa and Asia. Some of the vultures in these areas are critically endangered.  Vultures reduce the number of animal carcasses rotting in the sun, which means that they also reduce the chances that people and livestock will be made ill by the kinds of illnesses that develop from rotting meat.  I know that vultures have a bad reputation, but there’s one photograph of cape vultures in South Africa that is truly beautiful.

We have traditionally had a lot of black and turkey vultures here in Texas.  I made sure that Alex grew up appreciating the good they do for the environment. We once actually found the remains of a raccoon at Guadalupe River State Park and we had seen vultures in the park earlier that day. Now I didn’t get cozy enough with the bones and fur that remained to see if there were beak marks on them, but the corpse was just to the side of the walking path, so I suspect that if the poor thing had been left to rot, someone would have removed it, or alerted a park ranger so that it could be removed.

By the way, it looked like the poor thing had become tangled in fishing line, so please be careful when you go fishing to always account for all of your fishing line before you go home.

Into Thin Ice, by Andy Isaacson, photographs by Nick Cobbing

I’m somewhat nonplussed by the title here.  I think that the usual saying is “on thin ice,” and the focus of this article (aside from — what else? — global warming) is on boats that examine the Arctic by attaching themselves to ice floes, so the word “on” would seem to apply there. But it’s the editors’ choice what to name the articles, even if it is somewhat cumbersome.

And, of course, the ice is melting more rapidly than is traditional and scientists are very concerned.  The warming oceans are releasing carbon dioxide into the air, which will hasten global climate change.

Stay tuned for my next National Geographic recap in which the rubber plantations of Asia are about to precipitate an ecological catastrophe.  Unless I can knock out the rest of July 1889 by then, in which case my next National Geographic writeup will be about the rivers and valleys of Pennsylvania in great detail.

With this post, I will pretty much run out of National Geographic posts from my old blog.  I am going to attempt to keep posting entire issues, but I may go back to the pattern I originally set up on the old blog, where I generally posted two articles at a time.  If I were to keep posting entire issues, it likely would slow me way down on my reading.  The magazines just seem to go faster when I read two and review two, rather than reading the entire issue.

The “pretty much” is because I do have three National Geographic posts left, but two are from the October 1888 issue, which I am still plugging away at slowly.  National Geographic didn’t start trying to attract a general audience until around 1905, so those first 17 years of issues will be slow going.


A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World, by Jonathan Foley, photographs by George Steinmetz and Jim Richardson

Over the next 35 years, from 2015 to 2050, the food needs of the world will likely double.  This is due not only to population increase, but also to the increase in prosperity of formerly impoverished nations.  These developing nations are now demanding more in terms of meat, milk, and eggs, as well as of produce.  As a result, scientists need to come up with new ways to feed these people while not wrecking the environment in the process.  Foley led what he refers to as “a team of scientists” who have studied this very question and they came up with five steps that may help with this.

These five steps are to freeze agriculture’s footprint, to grow more on farms we’ve got, to use resources more efficiently, to shift diets (to less meat-intensive diets, for example), and to reduce waste.

These goals seem to be pretty obvious to me.  Further, while this article gives a few examples of how these goals might be achieved, it then ends with “we already know what we have to do; we just need to figure out how to do it.”  I felt sort of underwhelmed by this conclusion.  I guess I should count it as a good thing that scientists are thinking about this topic at all.

Digging Utah’s Dinosaurs, by Peter Miller, photographs by Cory Richards

In Digging Utah’s Dinosaurs, we meet the Miller brothers, Ian and Dane, who are paleobotanists.  We join the Miller brothers on an expedition at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, where they are searching for signs of the lost continent of Laramidia.

90 million years ago, the area which is now North America was two separate continents, Appalachia to the east and Laramidia to the west.  The Western Interior Seaway lay between them.  The Miller brothers, along with other scientists, are searching for the species of dinosaur who lived in this area and trying to figure out why the dinosaurs of northern Laramidia were so different from those in southern Laramidia. It is possible that there was a physical barrier of some sort, but they have not yet found any evidence of such a barrier.  Instead, the going theory is that the area, much of which is now desert, was a tropical rainforest.  This means that the herbivorous animals would not have had to have gone very far in search of food.  This also means that any carnivorous animals in the area also would not have had to wander very far.  The result would be a less dramatic version of how isolation caused divergence in Australia and Madagascar.  The species would have had different pressures causing different traits to be selected for, resulting in very different species.

Finally, I noticed that the writer, Peter Miller, shares a surname with the Miller brothers.  Miller is a very common name in the United States (the sixth most common, as of the 2000 census), so it is not impossible that this is a coincidence.  However, it is also not impossible that all three Millers are related in some way.  I have been unable to determine which of these it is.

The Ship Breakers, by Peter Gwin, photographs by Mike Hettwer

Oceangoing ships have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years. After that, it becomes so expensive to insure them that their only value is for scrap. Ships are not just made of steel. There are other substances involved, such as asbestos and lead. In most developed countries, the safety measures necessary for such work would eat into the profits from recycling the recyclable bits, such as the steel. As a result, “the bulk of the world’s shipbreaking” takes place in countries with lower safety standards, such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

In The Ship Breakers, Gwin takes us to one of the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh.  In Bangladesh, the shipbreaking yards recycle around 90% of each ship and, overall, make a profit of three to four million dollars a year.  The yards used to be open to tourists, but a while ago, they closed the yards to visitors.

Gwin and Hettwer show us some of the process of shipbreaking in Bangladesh, in which these elderly ships are taken apart by hand. We also hear from an activist who wants the process of shipbreaking to be done in a cleaner, safer way.  At the moment, the shipbreakers risk their lives daily and allow toxic chemicals to leach into the environment.  Hopefully, someday the shipbreaking yards will find a cleaner, safer way to do their work without putting people out of their jobs.

The Generous Gulf, by Rob Dunn, photographs by David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes

When the European colonists arrived in North America, they were overwhelmed by the variety of life, and number of fish, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  This was for two good reasons.  First, their own waters back home had been overfished and second, the Gulf of St. Lawrence had an unusually high number of lifeforms because of its position.  The waters of several rivers collect organic matter which becomes food for smaller lifeforms, which then become food for larger ones until you have cod, and herring, and sturgeon, and even whales and walruses.  The Europeans seemed to think that the supply of fish and other animals was infinite and immediately set about overfishing the Gulf.

There is a new threat to the Gulf as well.  Oil has been found under the Gulf and the oil company executives are making plans to begin drilling.  This runs the risk of leaking into the Gulf and causing ecological damage.  Hopefully the oil companies that are planning this well will be careful with the ecosystem that they are about to venture into.

Love and Loss on the Seine, by Cathy Newman, photographs by William Albert Allard

Love and Loss on the Seine is a series of vignettes of life on the Seine, the river that flows through the heart of Paris.  We meet people who have chosen to live on barges in the river.  We see workers setting up for Paris Plages, a summer festival in which the expressway along the right bank of the river is blocked off and turned into a beach with sand and portable palm trees.  People discuss the color of the Seine with Newman.  We see the history of Les Berges, a sort of River Walk for Paris, where the expressway along the left bank has been closed in favor of parks and restaurants.  We visit a homeless shelter on a barge on the river.  Newman discusses breaking the law on the Seine (no swimming or wading, no protests, no banners and so forth) with a police officer.  We see people fishing on the Seine (a difficult task considering the embankments that have been there since the 1700s).  We see Paris at 3:00 in the morning.  We visit a mental hospital on a barge on the Seine (there is little to no aggression in the patients in this hospital; no one is sure why).

Overall, Love and Loss on the Seine is very quick, easy reading, and helped me see more of a city that I have only visited for one very pleasant day in 2002.

(originally posted in July and August 2015)

The Dogs of War, by Michael Paterniti, photographs by Adam Ferguson

The Dogs of War is about the Marine Corps use of dogs to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  I was less enthusiastic about this article than I might otherwise have been because I don’t like war.  I’m one of those people who thinks that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home.  And that goes for the dogs, as well.

Paterniti takes us to Afghanistan, where we meet Jose Armenta and his dog, Zenit.  Zenit is a German shepherd.  And when I say “his” dog, neither Paterniti nor I am using this word in a way that you would expect.  I have read articles about how most police dogs are socialized to live with humans and trained only to be aggressive on command.  As part of their training, they live with the police officers’ families more or less as a pet would.  I expected that to be the way that military dogs are kept as well.  It was kind of startling to find that while Jose lives in the barracks, Zenit lives in a kennel.

Though I should put that last sentence in the past tense.  We find out what happens, in the end, to Jose and Zenit and it’s a bittersweet ending.

Untouched, by Heather Pringle, photographs by Robert Clark

El Castillo de Huarmey is a tomb built into the side of a large rock formation in northern Peru.  The area around El Castillo had been used as a burial ground and had been violated by tomb robbers many times over the centuries.  As a result, when Polish archaeologists decided to explore El Castillo, which looked more or less like a step pyramid, no one but the archaeologists expected to find anything.

What the archaeologists found was the undisturbed tomb of one of the rulers of the Wari, a people who ruled this area of northern Peru for around 500 years.  One of the chambers contained what looked like a stone throne.  There were mummified guards, as well, all of whom were missing their left feet.  No one now living knows why their feet were removed.

In one chamber, the bodies of sixty women were found.  It appears that three or four of them were royalty and some 54 of the others may have been nobility.  These women were found wearing jewelry and fine clothing, then wrapped in cloth that left a roughly egg-shaped form.  There were also some other unmummified women found in the chamber, and it is possible that they may have been sacrifices.  Other goods, fabrics, vessels, boxes, and so forth, were found in the tomb as well.

And yet, with all of the bodies and materials and the throne, no sign of a king has been found yet.  The archaeologists are still searching, but while looking for other information on the Wari, I found a page at Archaeology Magazine’s website called “A Wari Matriarchy?”  And it occurred to me that why not?  Maybe the archaeologists will never find the “king” because there is no king to find.  Perhaps the highest-ranking woman, with the finest jewelry and clothing, was the ruler.

Puffin Therapy, photographs by Danny Green, text by Tom O’Neill

Before we get to the meat of this article, I find the way this article was credited interesting.  Generally, it’s the title, then after a few pages of photographs, when the text starts, the writer and photographer are credited in that order, and then the text starts.  In Puffin Therapy, the photographer credit is by itself where the writer and photographer credits normally go, and the writer’s credit is stuck at the very end of the text section, following a dash.  I wonder why they did it this way?  My first instinct is to say that perhaps Green was supposed to have written the text, but he had some kind of prior obligation that kept him from being able to do so and so they enlisted O’Neill at the last minute.

The text is largely about the mating behaviors of puffins.  The common image of puffins with their bright orange beaks is their appearance during mating season.  The rest of the year their faces and beaks are darker.  In fact, one photo that I found when searching for what puffins look like the rest of the year looks more or less like the puffins that we’re used to seeing right after a vacuum cleaner bag blew up in its face — all gray and sooty looking.

It wouldn’t be a National Geographic article without a mention of global climate change.  There is some concern that the change in climates may have a deleterious effect on the puffin population.  Puffins in some locations have had almost no offspring in some years.  Puffins are long-lived and can afford to miss a year or two of breeding, but this trend may be increasing and the puffin may end up being threatened as a result.

The title comes from Iain Morrison, who takes visitors to see the puffins.  He says that spending time with puffins makes the visitors happy and refers to it as “puffin therapy.”  And looking at Green’s photographs, I can definitely believe it.

How to Farm a Better Fish, by Joel K. Bourne, Jr., photographs by Brian Skerry

It should come as no surprise that an article called How to Farm a Better Fish would be about fish farming.  This installment of the Future of Food series focuses on the growth of the fish farming industry and how fish farmers and scientists are attempting both new and older methods in the industry.

As a general rule, fish is one of the most efficient forms of protein there is.  Where chicken takes around 1.7 pounds of feed to produce a pound of meat, and the ratios are 2.9 for pigs and 6.8 for cattle, for fish, the ratio is close to one pound of feed per pound of meat.  Additionally, more people are eating fish than ever before.  As a result, there is more growth in the fish farming industry than in most other areas of agriculture.

We look at a number of farms, including the farm of Bill Martin, who  is attempting to develop carbon-neutral onshore fish farming.  We also see several offshore farms, including one eight miles offshore which raises cobia.  The man who developed this farm, Brian O’Hanlon, has put the farm so far offshore so that the currents will take away the waste. And, indeed, researchers have yet to detect any waste outside of the fish pens.  And one researcher, Stephen Cross, is attempting what is called polyculture, where many different edible species live in a sort of symbiotic relationship.  In Cross’s case, he is raising sablefish and then down the current from the fish, he is raising mollusks.  Down the current from the mollusks are kelp, and further down are sea cucumbers.  These three other species filter the water and remove waste from the sablefish.  Cross says that the biological filtration system that he is using could be fitted onto any fish farm and, since all of the species he is using for filtration are edible, the filters themselves can be harvested and sold.

The final farm we see is a kelp farm.  The owners of the farm, Paul Dobbins and Tollef Olson, grow three species of kelp that can grow up to five inches a day.  They then sell the kelp to restaurants, schools and hospitals.  Dobbins and Olson have increased their farm has increased to ten times its original size in the past five years and the kelp is cleaning the water in the area as it grows, a win/win for both the farmers and the environment.

I love seafood.  I was visiting a friend who was a vegetarian and he tried to convince me to go vegetarian.  I admitted that vegetarianism holds some appeal for me, but that I don’t think I could ever give up seafood.  And this article made me feel even better about seafood and its future as a source of food for the planet, than I felt before I read it.

Train for the Forgotten, by Joshua Yaffa, photographs by William Daniels

In 1974, the government of the Soviet Union began an ambitious project to showcase what they believed was Soviet superiority over nature.  They started work on a rail line connecting Lake Baikal to the Amur River in northern Siberia.  Around half a million people worked on the rail ine and on the towns that they had to build to connect it.  The original homes for the workers were wooden barracks in the woods, and as time passed, they erected prefabricated buildings to live in.

Then when the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the construction project.  Since 1991, the people of this region, known as the Baikal-Amur Mainline (“BAM”) have been isolated and left with no regular health care.  In an effort to remedy this situation, the Russian government runs a medical train along the tracks.  The train, named for Russian health-care pioneer Matvei Mudrov, has exam rooms and medical personnel and visits each village on average every six months.  This may be okay for many of the residents, but for those who are sick or injured, it is not nearly often enough.  There are no urgent care facilities and people die of conditions that are treatable in the world outside the BAM.

Yaffa takes us into the world of the BAM, seeing how isolated the people are and how desperate their medical situation can be.  He show us the slowly crumbling buildings and infrastructure (where anything besides a dirt road exists; some of the villages don’t even have running water) of the villages along the BAM.  The story out of Russia is that the Russian government intends to use the BAM to ship containers, but none of that is seen here.  All we see is the slow decay of what started out as an audacious (in both senses of the term) project.

(originally posted July 2015)