New York to Nepal

Posted by Chris Crews on Wednesday Nov 12, 2014 Under journal, travelog

So I am currently sitting in the Abu Dhabi airport waiting for our flight from Kathmandu to New York to start its second and final leg. It has been just over a month since I left New York for Nepal, and needless to say it has been an amazing experience. This was my first time in Nepal, but it will definitely not be my last. Even though I was only there for a month, and was in two very different places (the far northwestern Humla and the capital Kathmandu), the taste of Nepal that I had so far was amazing.

I’ve already posted a number of pictures since returning from our initial trip in the more remote region of Humla, but I still haven’t really had time to digest everything that I saw, heard, tasted and experienced–at least not fully. A lot of the next month will be spent going through photos and video, reviewing our trip records, working with GPS data and geo-tagged photos, and basically going through all the “raw data” from the trip. I don’t have a final tally yet, but I probably shot close to 150 video clips and about 15,000 photos, enough to fill about 150 Gb of space on half a dozen flash drives. Read More

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This is the first time I have had time to really sit down and catch my breath since arriving in Nepal almost a month ago. It has been literally non-stop since we arrived on the 13th of October in Kathmandu. After a few days of busy meetings we set off for Simikot, via Nepalgunj, for our adventures in Humla, the far northwestern region of Nepal.

For those not familiar with Nepal at all, it is located between northern India and western China geographically, and the northern 1/3 or so of the country is crossed by the Himalayan mountain range. So there is basically a lowland area (called the Terai), followed by a mid country and then high altitude mountain areas which form the southern edges of the Tibetan Plateau.

Kathmandu was a lot like New York before we left. Fallish, but a bit warmer, although with the freak cyclone in the region just as we arrived brought more rain and cold weather than was usual for that time of year. Nepalgunj, where we flew into, is hot and sticky like northern India, and Simikot was cooler, with snow-capped mountain surrounding it thanks to the early cyclone snowfall.

Flying into Simikot is an experience unto itself. You literally fly just above the mountain ridges, and then bank and swoop down and land on the flattened ridge of one of the many mountains in the area. If you don’t believe me, check out this photo looking down onto Simikot with the landing strip spread out across the land. Read More

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Leaving for the Far West of Nepal

Posted by Chris Crews on Friday Oct 17, 2014 Under journal, political ecology, religion, travelog

Well, the time has come for me to depart from Kathmandu, Nepal, where I have spent the past few days, and head out to the Humla district in the far northwest of Nepal, where I will be spending the next two and a half weeks traveling, talking with local communities, and surveying the local landscape for a research project I am involved with called the Sacred Himalaya Initiative.

Our trip will take us from Simikot, the district capital, due west to Hilsa, which is on the border with Tibet, staying in tea houses along the trail. We’ll follow the Karnali River for most of this trek, with the first big challenge being crossing Nara La (4620 m) on the way to Hilsa, the border town between Nepal and Tibet. From there we head northeast up into the Limi Valley area, which has more of a Tibetan lama influence. There we will trek up through several villages (Til, Jang, etc) and walk along the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and above the Karnali River. Here we will be camping for several days before going through the Nyalu La pass (4949 m), which will give us a panoramic view of the surrounding area, including being able to see the sacred Mt. Kailash to the northwest. From this high pass we then wind our way down to the Lake Sema Tso, and take this valley heading back south to Simikot.

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Chances are I won’t have any internet connection after we reach Simikot tomorrow, so here are a few photos from Kathmandu before leaving, and a shot of our team of adventurers. If I ever get an internet connection, I will try to post some photos and updates here as well.

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These days my first reaction is to prepare to cringe whenever I see a headline with the Anthropocene in it, which is ironic given that this is also my dissertation topic. How about that! More seriously, what I am always hesitant about is seeing the growing meme of the “good Anthropocene” which, now even Diane Ackerman is writing about. This is really a shame, as I enjoyed her earlier work A Natural History of the Senses when I read it. But it seems that Ackerman, like so many other well-meaning but ill-informed liberals, has bought into the myth of the “good Anthropocene” and the dream of technological salvation. Since I have several news alerts setup to track this topic, I always see what is new and trending on the Anthropocene, and I think the critical review in the Toronto Star by Kate Allen is spot on. Here’s an excerpt from her review of Ackerman’s new book, called The Human Age:

How would you feel if you killed your mother? Pretty bad, probably.

Humanity — the whole whack of us — is suffering from wide-scale psychological trauma of a similar kind, Diane Ackerman believes.

“I think maybe we’re walking around with a sort of mass depression about what we are doing. We refer to the planet as female: Mother Earth. Mother Nature. Okay, now we’re being told that we are killing our mother, our mother is going to die, and it is our fault.”

Ackerman, the best-selling author, poet and naturalist, has just the fix: her new book The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us, a lyrically-wrought romp through some of the innovative solutions, adaptations and modifications our species has created for our broken planet and our increasingly hot and uncomfortable place in it.

If you buy Ackerman’s diagnosis of collective malaise, this book is a balm. From green roofs to aquaculture, the spirit of The Human Age is clear: if we embrace our capacity for creativity, we might still be okay.

“We are going in the right direction. We know what to do. We just have to get motivated. And there is absolutely no way to do that if all that we are confronted with is doom and gloom,” Ackerman says.

But there is one critical question Ackerman fails to answer, and I am not the first to ask it: Who is “we”?

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So I just ran across the new media campaign by Conservation International, called Nature is Speaking. I have to say, it is very slick, and a nice change of pace from the usual fluffy koalas, arctic polar bears and the like that most of the big green NGOs inevitably use in their ad campaigns to tug on human heart-strings and call for change. CI takes a refreshingly different approach in their new campaign. Their “Humanifesto” starts with this sentence: “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” It then continues:

Human beings are part of nature.
Nature is not dependent on human beings to exist.

Human beings, on the other hand, are totally
dependent on nature to exist.

The growing number of people on the planet
and how we live here is going to determine the future of nature.
And the future of us.

Nature will go on, no matter what.
It will evolve.

The question is, will it be with us or without us?

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