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.
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.
The old trade route along the Nā Pali coast recently deteriorated, but brave workers are restoring its pride.
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. There is no drinking water, no showers and no camping facilities for visitors. Continue Reading…
The gharial is among the largest crocodile species, but it faces a fight to survive.
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. Males can become six metres long and weigh 180kg. The average lifespan is between 40 and 60 years.
The gharial’s habitat mainly consists of deep, fast-moving riverstreams. On land it is clumsy and its short, weak legs give it poor locomotion. The only times it leaves water is when basking or nesting. But in the rivers the gharial is king. It is too thin and delicate to attack large prey and therefore feeds on fish, which it grasps from the water with razor-sharp teeth. Continue Reading…
The Swallow’s Nest is a romantic symbol of Crimea and has a compelling history.
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. At the end of the 19th century a wooden cottage was constructed here in commemoration of a general of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and 1878. It looked nothing like the castle of today. But that did not stop it from acquiring the name ‘Castle of Love’, which is still used by some. Continue Reading…
Corridors of snow tower 20 metres above the highway along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
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). The route, completed in 1971, crosses the 3,015-metre-tall Mount Tateyama in the Japanese Alps. It ascends 1,975 metres from the bottom to its highest point. To say the journey is ‘varied’ is an understatement: across its 90 kilometres (55 miles) it uses six different modes of transport and changes method eight times. Continue Reading…
Costa Rica is renowned for its ecotourism, but how does one enjoy it in luxury?
‘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. It knows that protecting its assets pays off. One-fourth of the entire country has been made national park. Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica contains five per cent of the world’s biodiversity. In addition, the government aims to go carbon neutral by 2021; the same year Costa Rica celebrates its 200-year anniversary as an independent nation. Continue Reading…
The city of Tikal was a crucial economic hub for the Mayan civilisation, but mystery surrounds its demise.
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. Many archaeologists cite it as the largest excavated site on the American continent. Continue Reading…
The most frantic and enigmatic city in south-east Asia is no environmental saint, but sustainable options do exist.
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. The concrete buildings are a million miles away from your typical dreamy forest cabin. (In your mind, that is. One such resort actually lies very close.) But green facilities do exist for those who look. Here are a few examples. Continue Reading…
In south-western Morocco, argan trees are an invaluable resource to local tribes. But why are they full of 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. They are crucial to the ecosystem and their deep and strong roots have halted Saharan desertification from the east.
The Berber people here have long depended on argan trees. They provide firewood and charcoal for heating. According to researchers, nearly 90 per cent of the regional rural economy is based on the trees in some capacity. However, the most precious resource is the sought-after argan oil, produced from the trees’ dry fruits. Continue Reading…
The world’s largest sand island is more than just a giant beach
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. Along with grains from south-east Australia, it travelled towards the Queensland coast through winds, waves and ocean currents. It settled on the continental shelf before drifting towards the mainland in a zigzag pattern.
The process was helped by changing temperatures regulating ocean levels. During low tide, more sand became visible and started travelling across the surface. The volumes were so large that plants could not stabilise it. Over time, it settled. This created a number of islands, though there is a reason why Fraser became the largest. It used to be a low, hilly terrain formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and became an easy catchment area for travelling grains. Continue Reading…