‘Science won’t change; we have to change politics’

Renewable energy is a key battle in the war on climate change, but how to win it? Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace international chief executive, has the answer.

Naidoo

When you’re head of Greenpeace you cannot be scared of a challenge. Kumi Naidoo isn’t. At 15 he became involved in anti-apartheid activism in South Africa, his home country. At one point he was expelled from high school. He worked in neighbourhood organisations, the youth sector and organised mass mobilisations against the regime. “For me, climate change is not only about the environment – climate change is about survival, economy and equity,” he says. “Because of this growing consciousness I started to volunteer for various environmental organisations.

“While working in the development sector I saw how development projects w...

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Perilous paradise

The old trade route along the Nā Pali coast recently deteriorated, but brave workers are restoring its pride.

Hawaii

The scenery befits movies such as King Kong and Jurassic Park. On Kaua’i, the fourth largest island of the Hawaii archipelago, deep naked valleys and rugged mountainsides blend with canyons and wild waterfalls to create a landscape close to utopian. Imagining giant gorillas and dinosaurs here is hardly difficult. In fact, the island featured in both movies.

Kaua’i grew from an ancient volcano that rose more than eight kilometres (five miles) from the seafloor. With time, rain has carved out deep ridges in the mountains. National parks now protect an area that continues to be shaped by Hawaii’s unpredictable weather. On the land, the primitivism of past settlements is retained...

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Against the tide

The gharial is among the largest crocodile species, but it faces a fight to survive.

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With its long, saw chain-like mouth, the gharial reminds of an unusual pre-historic or extinct species. Soon it might be one. In 2007 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the reptile as ‘critically endangered’. In 2006 it conducted a survey of breeding gharial adults in the wild. It found less than 200.

The gharial is native to the Indian subcontinent. Its appearance is unmistakable. Its narrow snout becomes shorter and thicker with age. At the end is a small lump called ‘Ghara’ – which is Indian for ‘pot’. It is a vocal resonator present on all adults, and a visual sign to females. The gharial is one of the largest crocodile species, just behind the saltwater crocodile...

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Castle of Love

The Swallow’s Nest is a romantic symbol of Crimea and has a compelling history.

Ukraine2

Perched on the edge of a cliff on the Crimean south coast, the Swallow’s Nest is the postcard picture favourite of Ukraine’s southern peninsula. This miniature medieval castle hoovers some 40 metres above the water, but the more compelling view is the horizon towards the Black Sea. Beyond its touristic appeal it has featured in several books and Soviet films. “It’s very popular,” says Sergey Sorokin, a private tour guide on the peninsula. “Swallow’s Nest is the symbol of Crimea.”

The castle looks as if it could tip into the sea any minute. Once it went close. But it has stood its ground since 1912. The foundations were laid earlier...

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Hitting the road

Corridors of snow tower 20 metres above the highway along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Japan

The mythical Mount Tateyama is a place of extraordinary sights – and none more so than the corridors of snow. From mid-April when the route opens, a 500-metre path is cleared where people can stroll between giant walls of snow. They are formed by the mountain’s excessive snowfall, which averages seven metres per year. Some years 20 metres arrive. The corridor shortens towards the end of June, and virtually disappears by August.

The sight is part of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which connects Toyama City, in the Toyama prefecture, with Ōmachi, in Nagano (the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics)...

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Credible comfort

Costa Rica is renowned for its ecotourism, but how does one enjoy it in luxury?

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‘No artificial ingredients’ goes the slogan of Costa Rica’s tourism campaign. Since the 1990s the Central American country has promoted sustainable tourism and invited travellers to its exotic terrain. It has worked. Ecotourism is now one of its fiscal cornerstones.

The strategy is logical. Costa Rica cannot sacrifice natural resources in order to develop its society, because nature is the only resource available. And what nature. There are active volcanoes, grand mountain ranges, pristine beaches. Kayakers and rafters swoosh down riverstreams while explorers negotiate rich rainforests. Wooden huts and lodges are nestled in jungle close to the coastline.

Costa Rica is not stupid...

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Mystical city

The city of Tikal was a crucial economic hub for the Mayan civilisation, but mystery surrounds its demise.

Tikal2

Why Mayans fled Tikal, academics still don’t know. The city, located in northern Guatemala, enjoyed great economic prosperity from 800 A.D. until 950 A.D. That is when its long and illustrious history ceased. Experts have cited droughts and political instability. But like with much else on the site, nothing can be said for sure.

Tikal’s archaeological heritage is less doubtful. The settlement, situated in the Petén region in a complex habitat of wetlands and forests, became a national monument in 1931 and a national park in 1955. UNESCO listed it in 1979. The city’s postcard factor is inescapable, with the two rising temples characterising its revered architecture...

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Green city guide: Bangkok

The most frantic and enigmatic city in south-east Asia is no environmental saint, but sustainable options do exist.

Bangkok2

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand in every sense. More than 12 per cent of the national population live in the coastal city, where most of the country’s political, economic and cultural institutions are gathered. Here old wooden homes blend with a cityscape of booming skyscrapers symbolising Bangkok’s status as a major business centre. High-tech conference centres mix with temples and Buddha statues that reflect strong religious values.

The city’s environmental image is not the best. Traffic congestions are notorious and the infrastructure struggles to serve the city’s 9.3 million inhabitants. Overdevelopment is evident...

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The Tree of Life

In south-western Morocco, argan trees are an invaluable resource to local tribes. But why are they full of goats?

Goats

Goats do not usually climb trees. But Morocco’s argan forest contains something so tasty that neither animals nor humans are capable of holding back. Alongside tasty leaves, the trees feature dry fruits of similar size to olives. For goats they are delicious food. For humans they contain the resource behind the world’s most expensive edible oil.

Argan trees are endemic to south-western Morocco. They can become 200 years old and grow between eight and ten metres tall. For centuries they have resisted north-African heat. Their branches are thorny, rough and twisted...

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Sands of time

The world’s largest sand island is more than just a giant beach

Sand1

There are no castles on Fraser Island but if there were, they would be built on sand. On the Queensland coast some 184,000 hectares of quartz grains make a platform for lakes, wildlife and a surprisingly flourishing rainforest. Dunes stretch up to 244 metres above sea level on an island that is 122 kilometres (75 miles) long and up to 22 kilometres (13 miles) wide. Some 250 kilometres (155 miles) of beaches surround the inland.

The island has formed over some 700,000 years. Yet sand started to accumulate long before. Some 700 million years ago, when Antarctica was attached to Australia, eroded mountain ranges turned to sand...

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Sacred city

The religious heritage of Jerusalem is one that few cities can rival.

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Jerusalem is a city in which religious highlights arrive in density. Crammed inside its square-kilometre-surface (0.4 square miles) are some 220 historic monuments, including a series of highly important sites. UNESCO listed it in 1981. Millions of people visit every year.

The old city was all there was of Jerusalem until the mid-19th century, when surrounding Jewish neighbourhoods started to emerge. A wall of four kilometres (nearly three miles) protects the old city. Inside is a dense labyrinth of streets and squares. Throughout an eventful and often turbulent history, these streets have been walked by everyone from beggars to merchants, great scholars, academics and slaves.

Jerusalem today features four distinct ‘qu...

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Mixing it up

It is the trademark dish of the Spanish cuisine, but what characterises good paella? 

Paella

Spain’s perhaps most famous dish was created by poor labourers in Valencian rice fields. So, at least, goes the story. At lunchtime they would cook rice in large pans over fire. They would eat it straight from the pan using wooden spoons. The ingredients? Whatever was available: tomatoes, onions, vegetables, snails, beans and rabbits. “It’s a peasant’s dish; an everyman’s dish. It came about as a result of needing to work in the fields,” says Nick Blythe of Paella Fella, a Spanish food caterer. “It was backbreaking work.”

Others tales go differently. In the time of the Moorish kings, another story says, servants would make rice dishes by using leftovers from royal banquets...

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Gorgeous

The Verdon Gorge is one of France’s most attractive natural sights and stands out for its characteristic colour.

Gorge2

The boats glide contently down the riverstream as steep and naked stonewalls loom on either side. Below, the Mediterranean sun shines in the reflection of the emerald-green water. Around are rich forests and small villages. Joining the boats on the ride are kayaks and canoes with jolly tourists on board. Above, rock climbers are busy scaling towering cliffs.

The Verdon Gorge is a great touristic pull. Its location in the south-eastern Alpes-de-Haute-Provence makes it convenient and accessible for visitors of the French Riviera. It is part of the Verdon river, which stretches across 175 kilometres (108 miles)...

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Staying afloat

Pacific islands recently hosted a summit designed to increase global efforts against Co2 emissions. Now they hope nations will keep their promises.  

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Climate change is upon us already, and some countries will feel the effects sooner than others. In the Pacific Ocean, smaller island states are vulnerable to rising ocean levels as the Arctic ice melts as a consequence of increasing carbon volumes released into the atmosphere. That includes the Marshall Islands, a group of 29 atolls and coral islands that are located on an average of two metres above the ocean.

The effects are being felt already. Coastal floods, soil erosion and droughts have hit islands in recent times...

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Silenced city

The street of the Virupaksha Temple was a lively commercial centre until conservationists shut down the stalls. Was it a good decision?

India1

Not long ago, the street of the walled Virupaksha Temple buzzed with stalls and livestock. Megalithic 15th-century arcades called mandapas flanked the 720-metre-long avenue where local people ran trade off tourists. They called it the ‘bazaar’.

The bazaar starts by the towering temple in the city of Hampi: the last capital of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar. It was among the greatest and wealthiest of the Hindu empires and ruled the entire south India at its height. The empire identified Hampi, in the southern state of Karnataka, as an ideal location for a capital city...

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The environmental advocate

Philippe Cousteau Jr. wears many hats. The grandson of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and son of Philippe Cousteau Sr, the renowned documentary filmmaker, Cousteau Jr. has followed in their footsteps by educating people about environmental issues. He is co-founder and president of EarthEcho International, a non-profit organisation seeking to empower youth to take action for a brighter future. He is co-founder of Azure Worldwide; a strategic environmental design, development and marketing company. He is also an adventurer, explorer, author, TV host and special correspondent for CNN International. Yet for all his roles, they unite behind one singular goal. “My mission in life,” Cousteau says, “is to help people recognise the power they have to change the world.”

Cousteau2

You’re pa...

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‘We still have time’

The natural world is beset with threats such as climate change and wildlife poaching, but it can be saved, says WWF chief executive Carter Roberts.

World-Wildlife-Fund4

Protecting the natural world was never going to be easy. In Africa, wildlife poachers are using increasingly sophisticated technology to hunt rhino horns and ivory; in Asia and elsewhere, tigers, gorillas, giant pandas and other species near extinction; across the world, business leaders and politicians are turning a blind eye to climate change.

For environmentalists, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) should need no introduction. The influential conservation organisation works in 100 countries and is supported by almost 5 million people...

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The Twelve Apostles

On Victoria’s southern coast, giant limestone stacks have been sculptured by waves. Nobody knows for how long they will survive.

Alberto-Loyo

On 15 January 1990, a young couple strolled onto a famous rock formation on the Australian coast along the Great Ocean Road. The formation was named ‘London Bridge’ because of its two natural arches that branched out from the mainland. Suddenly the inner arch crashed into the sea. The couple were trapped on an islet. They had to be rescued by a helicopter.

The episode was typical of the coastline stretch known as Port Campbell, situated some 230 kilometres (140 miles) south-west of Melbourne. For thousands of years, powerful waves have pounded against the coastline and gradually torn away the rock. Spectacular sculptures have been left behind...

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‘The land God made in anger’

The merciless coastline of northern Namibia has been the ill-wanted deathbed of many aquatic creatures.

Valdecasas

If dropped off by the Skeleton Coast – and if the name hasn’t scared you off already – the sight would resemble that of a coastal graveyard. Across the 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the Ugab River to the Angolan highlands, the bones of animals lie strewn in the soft sand, like a finished plate of barbeque ribs. They are accompanied by hundreds of rusty shipwrecks. Each has its own story. “There are mostly whale bones and a lot of seal bones,” says Volker Jahnke, of Desert Magic Tours Namibia. “Every now and then you also find human skeletons.”

The Skeleton Coast is the Bermuda Triangle of the South Atlantic Ocean, but without the myth...

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Keeping it clean

The White Desert is the jewel in Egypt’s tourism crown, but relies on volunteers to stay free of rubbish.

Enrico-Montanari

Weird mushroomy rock pinnacles dominate the landscape of the White Desert – one of Egypt’s most popular destinations. For some 20 kilometres (12.5 miles), freestanding white chalk blocks line up like sculptures in a city park. Most visitors become transfixed by their size and alien beauty – until their gaze lowers towards the ground where paper and plastic bags lie buried.

The White Desert is situated in the Western Desert, which covers two-thirds of Egypt. More specifically, it is based in the Farafra Depression. The closest town is Farafra, some 45 kilometres (30 miles) away. It borders to the Bahariya Oasis in the north.

It was formed when a large rock plateau began to bre...

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