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Are we hard wired to run a sustainable planet? And are we accountable to the entire world that we live in? Can I travel with a presence that allows my footprint to add value to the world that you live in?

This blog will humbly attempt to see my world through experience, TRAVEL, photos, movies and clumsy, sincere examination considered for its karma. And I will find a way to incorporate some positive travel experience into that karma?

Good luck and welcome to the jungle! 

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Monday
Sep292014

Rajasthan

“‎No people whose word for 'yesterday' is the same as their word for 'tomorrow' can be said to have a firm grip on the time.”  Salman Rushdie

The "Wild Frontier" tour group led us through the timeless Desert State of Rajasthan, India. This is fascinating beyond anything I`ve ever seen, and I`ve seen a sizable chunk of our planet.

Jaipur. We walked the old and new Jaipur, the Pink City. Crowded streets in a culture frenzy.We tour the Wind Palace and Royal Museum and their history of pampered and decadent Royalty. Finish Jaipur with an evening "walking tour" through narrow crowded bazaars and chaotic backstreets putting Jaipur`s economy in your face. A crazy great time.


Jodphur offers the imposing Mehrangarh Fort. A Fortress worthy of the "Game of Thrones". From the heights of this Fort the view of Jodphur shows the essence of the " Blue City".



Then we cross the sleepy little village of Jojowar. Here we discover the "faces of India". A treasure trove of Street Portrait Photos. This only makes me greedy for more.


And it`s only fitting to end the tour of a Desert state in a City of Lakes. Udaipur, "the Venice of the East". Here we watched Elephants walk through the streets as we ate lunch and then we dined under the stars and lights of an ancient City that can`t define a desert State but can refine a weary traveler.

We leave Udaipur for Goa which is another story for another time?

Thursday
Feb062014

Capturing India at "the Taj"

 

 

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” Mark Twain

India is my inspiration for this tour of wonder in Agra and Rajasthan but don`t get me wrong. I understand and saw some of the challenges of a developing economy managing 1.3 billion people. There is pollution (Delhi smog-fog), desperate poverty and cow shit around every other corner but that`s not the India that I focused on. That aspect of the subcontinent has it`s time and space in many media forms but I`m dialed into the timeless adventure of travel in a world of people, karmic history and it`s creations, superstition, spiritual conundrums, camels and elephants caught in the rise of a future force in this world`s economic drama.

We start our quest in Delhi where a deep breath of fog-smog gets me choking on environmental consequences for development. Air pollution plagues New Delhi like Beijing and apparently there has not been much progress for years in any acceptable clean up. Choke on that but obviously progress is always complex in any large Industrial evolution as evidenced by the enormous rise of solar power in the nearby Indian State of Rajasthan. Some yin and yang for the environment of India. This is a shame for the history and people watching energy that Delhi offers, but for me it`s only a connection for a short trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal. An amazing site to start an Indian adventure.

A true "wow"  moment as I walk through the entrance arches and see this mausoleum in it`s timeless glory. I`ve seen a hundred photos of the Taj Mahal and thought I might still be impressed, but this is a crazy, marble masterpiece. Absolute architectural perfection and I`m going to try and take a photo perspective unique to a million photos before this? Yeah, good luck on that.

The problem with a good photo of something this epic is the people. There are a lot of people, like us, who want a photo of "the Taj". And I can`t afford to rent this place for a photo shoot. So I need to isolate it`s magic without any distractions, as in people? I`m a bit of a photographer nerd who wants a tripod for something this special in early morning light, but no go. No tripods allowed. I`m going to have to do it the old fashioned handheld method and pretend that I can isolate the Taj from the tourists.

I find a spot at the end of the water channel leading directlly toward a distant Taj and bracket 5 exposures of my waking dream. The vegetation and water leading to the distant marble Tomb capture a moment I can invest in the vault of travel memories. A piece of planet-johnson for my personal travel geek hall of fame.

But any photo pales to the true historical significance of "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". In a modern dominant Indian Hindu culture "the Taj" is revered as an example of integration of influences from many different cultural influences. The Taj is a masterpiece of design from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architecture influences. It seems that the Mughal Emporers of India could be more open of a paradox than I had imagined. A complicated mix of violence, religious persecution and cultural integration fueled inspiration of the taj.

In the end maybe that`s what makes the Taj Mahal so appealing. It`s history of design perfection may be an example of multi cultural confluences and the possibilities that can be weaved when different people come together in the spirit of some significant progress. A moment of magic wrapped in history carped in violence.  Maybe the Taj is a symbol of hope for mankind that we can overcome our sad but true historical oppressions. And on that spiritual note we take our travel adventure into Rajasthan.


 



Wednesday
Dec042013

Whale Talk in a "Seashepherd Moment"

"We have heard the whales sing. And we want – we very desperately want – to hear them sing again." Jacques-Yves Cousteau

It`s after midnight on the Antarctic Southern Ocean and the ship`s fire alarm is ringing. I break out of light sleep and jump into my gear. Then I`m headed for the ship`s bow and hoping it`s a simulation. In a moment I`m standing on the deck of our ship the "Steve Irwin". Seas are up and a frozen wind is blowing.

A Japanese Whaling Harpoon Ship is headed toward us and the captain has set the alarm to brace the crew for a ramming. What the hell is going on? We`re just here to observe illegal Whaling activity by Japanese Harpoon boats but now we`re under attack. A crewmate scream to "brace yourselves". The larger, faster Whaling Ship clips our bow and we`re in big trouble!

Then I really wake up and realize that I`m dreaming in living colour! But this really is a consequential danger for the crews of ships used by the "Seashepherd Conservation Society" to prevent the illegal slaughter of Whales on the high seas.  This kind of threat appears imminent as Paul Watson and Seashepherd put themselves at significant risk to "do the right thing". They are the activist heros that inspire my latest travel dreams.

My travel life was affected profoundly by my first trip to Hawaii with it`s everpresent and always inspiring "call of the wild" moments highlighted by the awesome sights and sounds of the Humpback Whale. Whether it`s a seashore hike, a measured beach moment, a catamirand whale tour, helicoptor sighting or just snorkeling somewhere in the "Humpback Universe",  there are breach sightings or Whale songs that forever change the possibility that you can accept butchering any life form this special. They think, they sing, they play with a freedom we would die for, they are no threat to sensible human beings and they highlight a moment in this planet`s history that cries for "Ocean Conservation".  They provoke  a "Seashepherd Moment" in affected travelers! That, for me, represents an activist passion to live by a planetary fairness that recognizes the right to an Ocean life and freedom for these cetacean mammals.

Commercial Whaling has been illegal since an International Whaling Commission moratorium in 1986, but Iceland, Norway and Japan have slaughtered 25,000 whales since then? The last line of defence for the Whale, since there are no police on the high seas, is the Seashepherd Conservation Society who actively drive the Japanese Whale murderers crazy in their attempted seasonal Whaling slaughters. Seashepherd is a group on non-profit conservationists who, since 1977, have used direct action tactics to expose and confront the illegal activities of whale butchers on the high seas. The stuff of my dreams. 

Friends on a "whale tour" off Kauai have their moment as a Humpack surfaces (within a few feet) next to their catamirand and rises silently to eye level. Eye contact with Mobi Dick. Intelligent, sensitive and enormous. They`ve made the kind of contact that commercial Seaworld perverts. They discover a force of nature and freedom. Contact with something seemingly alien, but probably as special as ourselves?


At that moment I`m busy diving (near Poipu) with Giant Seaturtles and dolphins that inspire another significant "moment". These life forms are adding a peaceful balance to nature that we seem determined to corrupt. This traveler wonders if these creatures are probably as important to conserve as human beings? A crazy notion, but I don`t think we have proved ourselves especially worthy in recent history and maybe in the "Seashepherd Moment" I can help change that? Traveling with these animals is my karmic opportunity to understand possibilities! My dream to save the Ocean and ourselves.

So next I`m in Maui off Kaanapali Beach, snorkeling around the "Black Rock". This is always special with Turtles and the usual fish frenzy close by but now I see something on the sea bottom? Maybe an Eel? I dive to ten feet and whatever was there is now gone, but now I`m hearing the music. Whale songs of the Humpback Whale. Apparently it`s only the males that sing and scientists still don`t understand what it means, but this is some serious Ocean Melody. I go up for air and then back down for more. This performance goes on for 15 minutes and they seem so close. I swim about and look and look? No sign of the elusive humpback that might be close or could be miles away. But listening to this music brings me into his space.

Again I`m further drawn into the vortex of a lost freedom and the passion for Whale survival. I have seen and heard this beast and now I think I understand how important their freedom is. This kind of travel has made me aware and that is some of the best possibility and reason for travel. It`s what I search for in Nature and different cultures. This is the "art of travel", as inspired in a "Seashepherd Moment"! Something that I guess Cousteau might have appreciated!

To understand Seashepherd and it`s challenge try Whale Wars on the Animal Planet Channel

<a href="http://www.hypersmash.com">Hypersmash.com</a> 

 

 

 

 





Wednesday
Nov132013

Seacology in the San Blas Islands

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”  Jacques-Yves Cousteau

 

Here I am exploring Panama at 5.30 am, on what looks like a day that will become this typical beach adventure in paradise. But for the moment we will meander up a mangrove lined fresh water estuary river and see snakes, sloths and amazing birds. Just another day in Bastimentos, Panama that feels like a moment in "Apocalyse Now" without the guns. Early light , revealing nature in a National Geographic Zen moment of discovery and wonder and then a fellow traveller whispers in my ear. "I hope the San Blas Islands are this amazing?" Ok one adventure so often leads to another and of course she has grabbed my enthusiasm for new discoveries. I will now have to try and find out if the San Blas Islands are this amazing? It`s what we do!

One thing to consider for any travel or life in Panama is that it comes pretty much tropical storm free. It has only been affected by one Atlantic hurricane historically (1969) and seems to be protected by it`s geographic location. This is in vivid contrast to this sad moment in the Phillipines and it`s challenging tropical location. So perhaps I will be travelling to a San Blas shangri-la? Is everything copacetic in this "wonder land"?

The Spanish named the archipelago off Panama`s Carribean coast the San Blas Islands, but to the Kuna, they are part of the Kuna Yala. The land of the Kuna (the indiginous people of Panama).  About ten percent of these islands are inhabited and many of the rest are day-trip destinations that visitors on Panama tours consider the most appealing part of the Kuna territory. You can fly to El Porvenier or Playon Chico, where we will begin our venture. From there we take a short boat ride to the Yandup Island Lodge and our private thatched hut. Our slice of shangri-la.




I`m here for the snorkeling, tranquility and island vibe which the Kuna package and sell with snorkel trips daily to pristine "Giliganesque" settings, thatched sleeping huts from a south pacific tribal dream and seafood shared with travellers sharing similiar goals of adventure and escape. The cover of this book is too appealing but our daytrip to the local Kuna village on Playon Chico refocuses the challenges of true life in Kuna land. We see the reality of tribal life that would be considered very poor in most of our lives. Their sewage is openly dumped untreated to their local sea and fisherman struggle to catch enough to sustain their economy

, as evidenced throughout the world. The Kuna People try to manage typical developing world issues of poverty, maintaining their culture and traditions, and sustainably growing an economy of fishing and tourism that works for everyone. This is the story of our times as countries like Panama sell us a piece of paradise for their progress. 


These are the mixed blessings of travel as I, fully geared, will snorkel with a very young barefooted, gearless Kuna boy who easily maneuvers the reef ahead of me. We follow a massive Eagle Ray through channels of reef and then encounter a Barracuda as large as my wife in the same moment. Miracles of Gaia and it`s Oceans in the true life fantasy of Dog Island , Cabanas, Tuborgana Island, and many other islands that an adventure pirate would "die for". On land, I circle most of the dreamy white sand islands and find garbage washing up on the windward side of paradise. This seems to be the part of civilization that we, in the developed world share as gifts of our neglect. Plastics and garbage. This is all part of what the Kuna sell for progress. To dance with our crazy civilization for our mighty dollars?

In San Blas I can explore seaworld and come home to wonder at the the commitment of Kuna women of Panama as they carry very heavy weights of life giving drinking water from their docks to their village (drinking water from the mainland). Women seem to bear a lot of weight in this world.

 

They value their traditions while struggling for economy and I worry about what we can offer besides tourism dollars and island lust. Then I discover the possibilities of an organization called "Seacology". “Seacology is playing a critically needed role in preserving the vitally important yet very threatened terrestrial and marine ecosystems of islands throughout the world.” Dr. Sylvia Earle  Now when Sylvia speaks about Ocean ecology and development, I listen. This is a stamp of approval that rings huge credibility. Seacology protects island habitats and assists island communities. If a community agrees to create a forest or marine reserve then Seacology will provide funds for something a village needs like a schoolhouse or health clinic. Since 1991, they’ve worked with over 200 villages on 149 islands in 51 countries. And San Blas has now become one of their waste management projects. This is too cool! Eco-friendly tourism.

This is the kind action that opens the door to potential for a sustainable travel experience. Greedy, needy old me can feed the tourism economy, explore the best of this corner of the planet with an Eagle Ray, try to understand a new culture and it`s traditions and then support an organization trying to "make a positive difference" in the life of the Kuna. I`m still dreaming about, barracuda, coral reefs and the white sands of San Blas and this could become the heart of karmic travel. A win, win in Panama.

<a href="http://www.hypersmash.com">Hypersmash.com</a> 

Wednesday
Nov062013

Dreaming Blue Sky Power in Panama

"We photograph to taste life lasting, in the moment and forever more. The future is now." 

I`m running on a beach in Panama that, for me, defines everlasting possibilities. Whew, that might seem to be a bit of a reach but I am in the travel, hope and sustainability exploration of what can be part a path to the             1 billion year plan. Hence the Dreaming part of the title in this piece. A lot of great plans start with a dream so here we go?

Here on Laslajs, Panama, on the Pacific Ocean, I can see for miles through endless sand and blue, blue and more blue sky that fuels a dreamer`s high. With each stride and moment of this running paradise it`s a natural leap to thinking about Solar Power. No cars in sight, little hydro available and no pollution possible but plenty of in your face, seemingly endless solar power on the Pacific coast of Central America. 

This story plays all over the world in Nicaraugua, Thailand, Austrailia, Hawaii, Fiji, California, Ecuador and on and on. Each will offer these pristine, coastal solar revelations in one form or other. Obviously the sun shines everywhere including occasionally in Mexico City or Shanghai but this coastal sunshine inspires the less than obvious notion, at least at government levels, that we have a pretty powerful and benign path to a sustainable future.

I still think about a 'National Geographic" moment in a bed and breakfast in Panama City where recently , finding a 1979 edition of this magazine, I discovered an add from the Exxon corporation promoting Solar Power. It was a crazy moment in American History where even Exxon was toying with the notion of a solar market. Now that sounds like a dream but it`s true and through a complicated set of political and economic historical consequences solar power was buried deep under rising oil subsidies and business. So here we are and the damage is done but the sun is still shining and I can no longer ignore it`s potential as I travel through another paradise. I`ve heard it said that the only reason that we aren`t entirely solar powered by now is because "Exxon doesn`t own the sun" and apparently there`s a bit of truth to that? But this worm has turned and the future is hopeful.

Solar power technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that hope is truly on this horizon. Solar power has just recently been reported to leap ahead of wind as an electrical source. Central America has come a long way in the past decade in developing policies and regulatory frameworks to promote renewable energy, and now projects are on the rise. From this report on Central American solar progress we see that Panama is expected be home to two large-scale PV plants of 2.4 MW and approximately 2 MW in capacity. Hopefully that`s just a tip of their potential? Meanwhile, the world is going solar with India planning the world`s largest project so far in Rajasthan (which I may visit in January), California continues to develope projects like the Mojave Desert, the largest self-consumption rooftop solar array has been built in Germany (which is fuel for urban solar projects), and now even the Vatican is going solar

Here I was travelling the best of beach paradise in Panama and I`ve been inspired again to talk solar. Travel can be a great way to wander into the future and maybe soon I`ll find another add from Exxon talking the newest profitable source of energy? But that will probably mean that they are on the verge of buying a piece of it. And so it goes with our sustainable hope and future! Now I think I`ll have to explore some more of the sea, sun, people and culture of Panama.

<a href="http://www.hypersmash.com">www.hypersmash.com</a> 


Friday
Nov012013

The Invasion of Greed, Jellyfish and Our Ocean`s Extinction

"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean."  Arthur C Clarke

As a prelude to a possible "dive trip" to the Gulf of Thailand, I`m watching Rob Stewart`s latest movie Revolution lament for the future of mankind and for the state of our greatest treasure, the Ocean. It`s fascinating to see a movie nearly as good as his first, Sharkwater, that talks the talk of real science and real consequences. This siren views just as the scientific community begins to sound the alarm of Extinction for us all to consider between episodes of Dr. Phil and American Idol. Maybe we can find time for science and the reality of our neglect?

This planet is about 2/3`s Ocean, 1/3 land mass and a speck of humanity that shits into this massive Ocean as if it really is just one big pottyhole? And this speck of humanity can apparently excrete at unparalled levels of damage. Results from the latest International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)/IUCN review of science on anthropogenic stressors on the ocean go beyond the conclusion reached last week by the UN climate change panel, the IPCC , that the ocean is absorbing much of the warming and unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide. They warn that the cumulative impact of this with other ocean stressors is way scarier than previous estimates. It adds up to dangerous acidity and extinction!

In Revolution, Stewart interviews scientists who claim that the Ocean can go belly up in 20 years. It has become 30% more acidic over the past 100 years and this Ocean hasn`t been threatened with these levels of potential acidity in 65 million years. What the frack! I didn`t hear about his on CNN, Fox news or our local newspapers. So what does it mean? Can I dive in a dead Ocean? Do I need a new travel plan?

I once talked to a fisherman in Amed on the east coast of Bali about their lost fishing industry. Many of their boats come back every day with less and less to feed their families. He blamed it on the Dolphins who he said were eating all of the fish? I didn`t have the heart to suggest that maybe our buddies in the Global Fishing Industry were probably overfishing here like everywhere else. Now this recent report from the scientific body, IPSO, suggests that overfishing of large Ocean species combined with Global Warming acidification of the same Oceans is on the verge of a catastrophic consequence. It`s become all too obvious that "greed is not good" and that profit and extinction are sharing the same boat. And that boat is sinking!

According to the Guardian newspaper, IPSO states that  "This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth's known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun." The much maligned IPCC reports are often vilified in MainStreamMedia as shrill overeaction to the environmental community but I find that the more I research this area of scientific consequences I find that the IPCC is somewhat muted and forced into overly cautious predictions. The proof is in the water. Ten years ago in National Geographic News it was reported that 90% of large fish species were already extinct! Ten fracking years ago. Is it better now? I don`t think so! Adding to that we have these recent scientific findings that Global Warming CO2 emmissions are adding acidity to the Ocean at disasterous rates of change. Well it`s not a pretty picture and if I care about what life is like "on the third Rock from the Sun" 20 years down the road? then I`d better try and be part of a solution?

The world`s Jellyfish are an ultimate symptom of degradation and are cockroaches of the sea. They can`t seem to be killed by anything. They are loving this problem and good for them but our Ocean`s are dying and increasing sites of too many Jellyfish is another Siren. I`ve tried swimming with these Jellyfish off the coast of Hua Hin, Thailand and Jamaica. It`s not a good experience. This "jelly bloom" can disrupt and destroy fisheries, make for unpleasant swimming (that`s me and you), or foul up the works of power plants that use seawater for cooling. They can be beautiful but deadly!

Can we save ourselves from the Ocean`s extinction? Common sense suggests that it is time for a reset button. But we can`t seem to find it so maybe it`s time to panic just a little bit and get our asses into a scientific International movement to turn this around. I`m not sure of the best way to approach this just yet, but I`m searching and traveling for possibilities!

<a href="http://www.hypersmash.com">www.hypersmash.com</a>