National Geographic April 2016, Part 3

Ghost Lands, by Paul Salopek, photographs by John Stanmeyer

We return to Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk series for the first time after a pretty long hiatus. The Out of Eden Walk was originally supposed to take seven years, but it looks like it may take longer. The last time I checked the map showing where he was expected to be, he was a little bit behind schedule. I found the map and he was supposed to be in India in 2015 and then in China at some point in 2016.

So far he’s made it to the border between Turkey and Armenia and in this article he shares with us some of the fraught history between those two countries. During the last days of the Ottoman Empire (which lasted until 1922), over a million Armenians were killed in what Salopek says that “most historians” say is “the modern world’s first true genocide.” The official Turkish version is different, of course; they say that 600,000 were killed and that they were more along the lines of “collateral damage” than an attempt at extermination.

Salopek shows us the remaining damage to both the land and the people as a result of the deaths of these Armenians. The border between the two countries is closed and there is basically no way to get directly from one country to the other except for one airline that flies out of Yerevan. By land, the only way to get from one to the other is to go hours out of the way through Georgia.

93 Days of Spring, by Jim Brandenburg

Brandenburg shares with us his project to take one photograph a day in Minnesota during the spring. Brandenburg didn’t choose Minnesota randomly; it’s his home. The photographs are beautiful, as one would expect from a professional photographer. They also show a love of his home that, hopefully, will inspire other photographers to take pictures of their own homes.

As an aside, taking pictures close to home is a particular interest of mine. Some of the important things from my childhood and youth are no longer there and I never got to take a picture of them. I’m always after Alex to photograph the things and places that are important to him because you never know what may happen in the future and he may want to share these things with his own family someday.

National Geographic: June 2015, Part 1

High Science, by Hampton Sides, photographs by Lynn Johnson

I have to admit that I’m less-than-enthusiastic about the legalization of pot. I have some friends who are into the whole thing, and that’s just fine by me, so long as they don’t smoke it around me, or, really, smell very strongly of it around me, or drive under the influence.  And before you go saying, “there’s no evidence that people are more likely to drive under the influence of pot.” and then obfuscate the issue by bringing up drunk driving, I wouldn’t have the first idea how to go about getting pot, but I know three people who have driven under the influence, one of whom almost got into a serious accident as a result. Now maybe those are the only three people in the history of ever who have driven under the influence and that one person is the only one who ever almost got into a major accident, but I suspect there just might be more of them out there.

But I come from a family of alcoholics and I have asthma. Neither of these are conducive to me wanting, personally, to indulge in pot. As a result, I really did not want to get into this article, and I’m currently sitting here staring at my computer screen trying to psych myself up to write about it.

Basically, Sides takes us into the lives of a number of people who are in the pot business, including Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who identified THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana), a breeder of recreational marijuana, a cancer researcher who has discovered a marijuana-based cancer treatment that works in mice, a family who uses cannabis oil to treat their child’s seizures, and a man who is mapping the genome of pot.

And, I guess if I had a condition that a marijuana-based treatment would help, I would consider it, just like I’ve taken Tylenol #3 and Vicodin four times that I can recall in my adult life (two tooth extractions, a c-section, and as a cough suppressant). I never found any of those meds so enjoyable that I didn’t want to quit, so perhaps my worries about addiction aren’t very well founded. But I don’t believe in taking unnecessary risks, either.

Born to Be Wild, by Tim Zimmermann, photographs by various photographers

Apparently, this is the second in a three-part series, Understanding Dolphins. It’s Time for a Conversation from the May 2015 issue is the first installment.

Born to Be Wild is about projects that attempt to return dolphins, generally those who were captured, back to the wilderness. We see Tom and Misha, dolphins from the Agean, who were captured in 2006 and kept in a park in Turkey. Four years after their capture, a man named Jeff Foster, who used to work for a company that captured dolphins began work to get them ready to be released into the wild. Foster worked with Tom and Misha and set them free We see the process that Foster used, including how he retrained Tom and Misha to eat live fish once again, and how he conditioned them to be able to swim long distances. The process took a while, around a year and a half, but eventually, they opened the sea pen that they had kept Tom and Misha in, and they were off. Their tracking tags stopped working within a year, but the scientists had by then gathered enough information to be sure that Tom and Misha had successfully reintegrated into the wild.

We also see the less-detailed return to the wild of three dolphins captured from the wild and kept in captivity in Korea. Tom and Misha separated and disappeared into the wild, but two of the Korean dolphins were seen nearly a year later, traveling with a pod of wild dolphins.

As to how many wild-caught dolphins can be released into the wild, Naomi Rose, a marine biologist thinks that one-third might be candidates for release. There is also a graphic showing how many captive dolphins in the world were wild-caught, and the vast majority of them were. However, most of the dolphins in the United States, Mexico, and Europe were born in captivity. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up for debate. I cautiously think of it as a good thing, since at least we’re not contributing so much to the traffic in dolphins. I wish we had more up-to-date facilities for them, however, that allow them a more naturalistic environment. Hopefully that will come with time.

National Geographic: March 2014, Part 1

Okay, so I can write up whole issues at a time, but I really cannot do justice to that many stories at once. So I guess I am going to go back to doing two or three articles at a time. If someday I am far enough ahead that I can paste several posts together into one entire issue, then I’ll do that. Either way, though, from now on, the most articles I will write up at one time will probably be three, no matter how they end up being posted.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Damascus: Will the Walls Fall? by Anne Barnard, photographs by Andea Bruce

That titles’s a mouthful. I’m not sure if Syria: The Chaos of War is going to be a series, or is just the title of this section of this issue, so I’m putting it in the title section here just in case.

The Syrian Civil War and/or Syrian Revolution, depending on whom you talk to, has been going on since 2011. This article is a look at what was the current state of the capital city, Damascus, in March 2014.

Damascus, the site of the conversion of the Apostle Paul, has always prided itself on being cosmopolitan. In the city, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have lived and worked in relative peace for centuries. That peace is now being threatened by the ongoing war. As this article went to press, no fighting was taking place within the city, but the military was stationed in the city and was shelling the suburbs. In words and pictures, we see the people of the Old City of Damascus living their lives as best they can in the middle of a war zone.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Journey Without End, photographs by Lynsey Addario, text by Carolyn Butler

Journey Without End is a pictorial of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. We see refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and there is a map showing where in each country the refugees have settled.

Where the Greenstone Grows, by Kennedy Warne, photographs by Michael Melford

In Where the Greenstone Grows, Warne and Melford take us to Te Wahipounamu, part of the Te Wahipounamu-South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. We get a glimpse into the history and culture of the area, focusing on the nephrite jade, known in Maori as “pounamu,” that gives the area its name.  Warne talks about the type of nephrite jade known as inanga pounamu, which takes its name from whitebait fish that are a delicacy in New Zealand and also the connection of the World Heritage Area to Gondwana, the southern part of the land mass known as Pangaea.

I am saving up for a trip to New Zealand (our goal is to go in 2019), and Alex is something of a rock hound. I suspect we may be taking a trip to the beaches of Te Wahiponamu.

National Geographic, March 2015

The Age of Disbelief, by Joel Achenbach, photographs by Richard Barnes

The cover of this issue of National Geographic calls The Age of Disbelief,  “The War on Science.”  That’s really oversimplifying this article.  In fact, there are so many ideas here that I’m having a difficult time figuring out where to start here.  I guess I can see where they were coming from on that “war on science” blurb.  Oversimplification is certainly tempting. Continue reading “National Geographic, March 2015”