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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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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 waunder 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>

Thursday
Oct312013

Vietnam Express

"If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.” – Cesare Pavese

This "Intrepid Tours" adventure (12 travellers from around the globe and a local guide)  ends in Hanoi but first stop on the Vietnam Express is Ho Chi Minh City, (Saigon). Prepare your senses for lots of people (6.6 million), aggressive markets, great baquettes, great coffee on every corner and major league traffic. First up we are set up riding in a Rickshaw into a manic Traffic Circle. I see this as intense with cars, bikes, trucks, rickshaws and mayhem in my face as my trusty driver peddles into this abyss. But ultimately, this is just another day in the life of Saigon as my ride zens through the pulse of modern Vietnam. Our sightseeing goal is the War Remnants Museum. The Vietnam War history is never forgotten and always a part of any Vietnam tour. They don`t seem to obsess but they won`t forget! And they do not pull punches to a former enemy!

Once you solve the energy of this city you`re ready to settle into the Vietnam Express. After the city tour we step back in time to endure (and ultimately enjoy) 17 hours on a very basic and very old Vietnam sleeper train. As Intrepid claims, it is a best way to experience long distance with the locals. So suck it up and get to know your new friends in a musty 4 berth cabin that might be the closest you get to strangers for the rest of your travel life. An excellent experience in the end. It forces us to engage on such a positive level. The best of all of us rises to the stuff of great memories. 

 Next up is Hoi An, a "world heritage site" that has become a handicraft shopping mecca. Shop for ceramics, woodwork and tailored suits before a motorcycle tour to the rice fields of quintessential Vietnam (we are passengers on the bikes).  We then visit an active Buddhist Monastery (dated from 1601), play soccer with young monks and then head off to an excellent orphanage experience. The orphanage is run by monks and the kids seem well taken care of but the experience is sadly touching and very inspiring at the same time. I think Intrepid has stopped this practise because of the lasting affect on kids. It is complicated as the kids broke our hearts and inspired our charity but we probably distort their expectations.  We likely offered more hope than some of these children will ever realize but it really has motivated me to the cause of orphans. Such is another side of travel karma. You receive so much that you should seek to give back! And that quest begins.

The final stage of this quest will take us to Hanoi and Halong Bay. A night spent aboard a private boat (gorgeous) cruising through those dramatic limestone cliffs and peaks is just another "oh my god" landscape moment. Even in the rain and mist that we drew, it was stunning!

Finally, Hanoi takes us into the heart of former North Vietnam. Old Russian inspired infastructure mixed in a thriving street economy leads us through a mix of French and old Communist influences. Hanoi sums up 11 days and nights of the spirit and history of Vietnam. I`ve never been inclined to try "group tours" but this mix of 12, Europeans, Ausrailians, English and Canadians with an engaging Vietnamese guide, was a great way to discover the world together with new friends. I will do this type of travel again.

We will remember this and I have been inspired to think outside this box that I call my life. Maybe I still have more to offer as I travel to the next inspiration?

 Good night to Vietnam.  Next stop, Cambodia or Thailand? Possibilities are like that box of chocolates!

Thursday
Oct242013

In the Air Tonight in Fiji, Hawaii or Tofino 



“How far will I need to travel to breathe clean air tonight" 

Travelling this planet in search of it`s best moments sometimes leads to common sense revelations. There is no denying the energy, architecture, culture and culinary delights of the global urban pulse in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Panama City, New York or Delhi but there`s more than a little disappointment at the state of air quality in most large cities. Recent studies of the WHO are highlighting the cancer causing probability of the exciting urban lives that many of us live! It`s a sad story. But it doesn`t have to be our endgame.

So, travel, as it often does, causes this one to reflect on the best that Gaia has to offer for those interested in good health as part of that "good vibe' package that inspires the travel quest. Maybe, just maybe, the journey can "inspire new eyes and thinking" about environmental possibilities? Maybe the best of clean air is just around the corner if you keep moving, and possibly that realization and appreciation could invigorate urban planning? 

That kind of idealism is hopeful but until the global politic can drag it`s sorry ass into a common sense environmental revelation (possibly by COP 30?!), then I will search for those moments of clear air, sunshine, sea life and landscape to "die for" that still can be found if you keep moving through this grand adventure on the 3rd brick from the sun. I won`t ignore the problem but I will explore the possibilities. Travelling for truth and loving every moment of it! I`m just a greedy idealist with a waundering heart.

My search takes me to the Hawaian Islands. I once read an educated opinion that the "northwest corner" of Maui had the cleanest air on earth (due to remote location of these Islands) so I had to take my son there and teach him how to really breathe. It was special and I`ve since discovered the beauty and clean air of the similiarly remote Kauai. Hike the Waimea Canyon and take a breath of the breathless views and then waunder through the timeless shoreline of Mahalepu Beach. This is nature on fire, the life soul of our best!

Time stops and nature thrives on Kauai, but the best of Hawaian air is probably on the Big Island at Mauna Kea. At 13,000 feet this celestial air has to be as good as it gets. You also get to view a Sagan starshow after the sun goes down. This must be the very best the planet has to offer! Our lungs will likely cry for more.

Then my search for a true breath of life takes me to Vanua Levu, Fiji which is the (that`s me) the poor man`s alternative to Tahiti. Here tropical rainforests scream with life; warm seas are filled with a coral-reef; and kind, generous local people know how to enjoy a good laugh. Bula baby in another land of smiles. Maybe it`s the air? Now don`t get me wrong, there is pollution in Fiji if you hang out in Nadi which is another burdened deveoping City but if you make your way to the other islands things start to come clean and fantastic. The air quality isn`t measured as readily here as back home (Canada) but the evidence is clear on the outter Islands.

From Savusavu, on Vanua Levu,  we hire a ride to Netawa Bay and the 2 of us with a private Captain-Guide in a small boat head into the beautiful and tranquil Bay. He anchors our boat and the show soon begins. A couple of pods of spinner dolphins (at least 30-40) begins to swim around our boat, jumping and spinning and dancing like the carefree souls that they need to be. What a show as we inhale the great air that inspires such a natural phenomena. This is about as far from civilization a you need to be these days to encounter this air but there are so many other good reasons to be here. Do Fiji if you can? The land of smiles and brilliant air that takes your breath away.


Next up is Tofino, British Columbia where the lichens  (which can indicate very clean air) grow wild in the Pacific Rim National Park which offers major league hiking in a Canadian Rain Forest. Down the road a virtual icon for surfing beaches, Long Beach, draws sweet tasting breeze over it`s reliable rolling surf. Apparently surfing is as good for your lungs as your soul in Tofino. Sweet breathing meditation and action so close to home!

This search for very breathable air is just heating up and I can`t cover all the possibilities without more time and money.  I could try to make a difference like this lady  so that I can be part of a solution that moves this world ever so steadily into a breathable direction. I can move to the air but if we don`t make some noise and demand the best it`ll find us eventually as we`re discovering in some parts of polluted Canada.  So for now I hope to continue the "air tour" with stops in Iceland, South Africa, Patagonia, Tahiti, New Zealand and anywhere else that I discover fits the mould. It`s a breathful of possibilities in a slow moving environmental activism? We need to deserve the best outcome but I`ll hit the road and breathe the best till then.