Young Hoon Oh, South Korean PhD candidate in anthropology at UC Riverside, is headed to Nepal at the end of the month to attempt his second Everest summit. But his itinerary extends well beyond the days he'll try to reach the top of the world. He'll then spend a year and a half living with Sherpa families in order to research his dissertation. His goal is to document how mountaineering has transformed Sherpa society over the nearly 100 years during which Western climbing guides have employed Sherpa people as porters.
Without this assistance, many hundreds of climbers from all over the world could not have ascended Everest and other Himalayan peaks. But the benefits that mountaineering has bestowed on Sherpa culture aren't always as clear, says Oh. Yes, Himalayan mountaineering and trekking have brought a thriving tourism and guiding industry to the region. But that has come at a price.
A study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how ecotourists, researchers, and others who are lucky enough to step foot on Antarctica might be leaving more than footprints. Seeds and other plant material hitch-hikes there by way of visitors' clothing and gear, and could one day wreak havoc on the Antarctic ecosystem.
The study was conducted through Stellenbosch University in South Africa during the 2007-8 summer season. The Stellenbosch researchers vacuumed the clothes and gear that 850 people had brought with them and they found 2,686 seeds, reports the Los Angeles Times. The seeds were not intentionally brought, they'd simply been stuck to shoes and in the creases of clothing and in other gear.
Clearly, these seeds don't signify an immediate threat to the icy continent, but as the climate there warms, these seeds could turn into invasive plants, which may flourish and harm the ecosystem. Should animals, such as rats, also find their way to Antarctica, things could get really ugly for endemic fauna.
Soon it'll be mud season--time to escape to drier ground. And there's no better remedy to the tail end of winter than dropping a thousand feet into the canyons of southern Utah.
My husband, Andy, and I have traveled with our girls, ages 2 and 5, all over southeastern Utah. By far, our favorite spot is Cedar Mesa, just southwest of Blanding, Utah. This is the spot where Ed Abbey set parts of his infamous book, The Monkey Wrench Gang. One visit to Cedar Mesa, and it’s easy to see why. The expansive landscape, with its rolling mesas of slick rock and maze of canyons, is the perfect place to stage an escape, whether you are a rag-tag group of eco-warriors or a family looking for a weekend reprieve.
The Bureau of Land Management is in a pickle. And wild horse advocates are fuming. At issue is what the BLM considers unsustainably large herds of wild horses on 26 million acres of BLM land across 10 Western States. Each year, the BLM removes thousands of wild horses from its range lands and places them in medium or long term holding areas, run by contractors but paid for by the government. From there, some are adopted but most remain, to live out the rest of their not-so-wild days.
The BLM reckons that across the West, there are 38,500 wild horses and it says it will reduce that by about 12,000 in order to keep the herds robust and to prevent harm to their range lands. Wild horse advocates say the BLM number doesn't reflect reality, and that reducing the herds by 12,000 would actually make their numbers unsustainably low. And they claim that the means by which the BLM rounds up wild horses is inhumane and illegal. The real reason the government wants to reduce the wild herds, they say, is to accommodate the interests of livestock ranchers and energy companies that want access to the range.
All of this has makes the BLM wild horse program contentious, to say they least. But the agency is now considering a new management tool: "ecosanctuaries" for wild horses, which could generate eco-tourism around viewing wild horses in their (at least, close to) natural state. It's not a new idea -- Madeleine Pickens has long wanted to start a large sanctuary called Mustang Monument where the public could come view wild horse herds from the BLM's "excess" stock. The agency said the economics of her plan weren't acceptable, but it is now on the cusp of permitting an ecosanctuary in Wyoming.
Need to thaw out? Leave the winter behind? We did. Our wants were simple: Our destination had to be warm and had to have salt water. What we didn’t want was simple, too: no passports required and no connecting flights.
With four boys 6 and under, we set out to find the perfect outdoor winter getaway. With the serendipitous guidance of a friend and some strategic timing,we found what we were looking for in the Florida Keys. We were sold on its consistent 75-80 degree temperatures, even in January; three-and-a-half hour plane ride from our home in St. Paul; and endless blue vistas. We shed our skis and snow pants for swimsuits and flip-flops, and we felt ten pounds lighter from the winter gear, and psychologically, too; like we could endure whatever the rest of winter might throw our way.