The Journey We Are All Responsible For


28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes. Action in Phnom Penh, Open Eyes, Cambodge, 2009

A big part of what we do when we are not adding to these pages involves helping people all over the world plan journeys. We want them to stay in places that we have developed and/or that we manage because we have worked to reduce our contribution to negative anthropocentric travel impacts. There are positive impacts also, of course, including resources flowing to places where they are needed for human development, which in turn increases the likelihood of conservation efforts succeeding.

I was happy to see this newly revamped online publication back in these pages recently, and today as I went to their website I am even more happy to see this amazing article by a writer who was liberally linked to in our first couple of years on this platform. We have enormous respect for Mr. Revkin’s commitment to many of the same things we work on day in and day out. This is a long article, but worth the time and attention:

An Anthropocene Journey

The word “anthropocene” has become the closest thing there is to common shorthand for this turbulent, momentous, unpredictable, hopeless, hopeful time—duration and scope still unknown

By Andrew C. Revkin
October 2016

My reporting career has taken me from smoldering, fresh-cut roadsides in the Amazon rain forest to the thinning sea ice around the North Pole, from the White House and Vatican to Nairobi’s vast, still-unlit slums. Throughout most of it, I thought I was writing about environmental and social problems and solutions.

Lately I’ve come to realize that my lifelong beat, in essence, has been one species’ growing pains. After tens of thousands of years of scrabbling by, spreading around the planet, and developing tools of increasing sophistication, humans are in surge mode and have only just started to become aware that something profound is going on. The upside has been astounding. Child and maternal mortality rates have plunged. Access to education has soared. Deep poverty is in sharp retreat. Despite the 24/7 distilled drama online and on TV, violence on scales from war to homicide has been in a long decline.

Ice Melt, Harbinger Of Accelerated Melting


When water accumulates on the surface of an ice sheet, more sunlight gets absorbed, which results in more melt, in a cycle that builds on itself. This year’s melt season began so early that many scientists couldn’t believe the data they were seeing. PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIEL BELTRÁ

Elizabeth Kolbert has appeared in these pages about as frequently as any other individual we admire (McKibben, an activist and a writer, wins the race with a few more posts pointing his way), or any other topic (take your pick between libraries, entrepreneurial conservation or a few others that nudge past EK in the same race) we care deeply about. She is an activist through her writing, advocating on behalf of our better understanding of the challenges facing the next generations. Epochal challenges that we have some ability to influence the outcome of. So, when she delivers biblical proportions of reporting, we read every word and pass it on:


The shrinking of the country’s ice sheet is triggering feedback loops that accelerate the global crisis. The floodgates may already be open.

Not long ago, I attended a memorial service on top of the Greenland ice sheet for a man I did not know. The service was an intimate affair, with only four people present. I worried that I might be regarded as an interloper and thought about stepping away. But I was clipped onto a rope, and, in any case, I wanted to be there. Continue reading

Air Conditioning In The Tropics


Negotiators from more than 170 countries celebrated in Rwanda on Saturday after reaching a legally binding accord to cut the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners. By REUTERS and ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish DateOctober 15, 2016. Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

Just to be extra clear on how problematic, and precarious our position is (jets and sharks are not the least of it) doing what we do for a living, today’s excellent news–complicated and full of ifs and buts–is excellent, full stop. But most of us contributing on this site live in the tropics, with air conditioning. Can we live under the new rules? (Accord Could Push A/C Out of Sweltering India’s Reach makes us wonder.) We will. Do we know what that means? Not yet. But we are paying attention:

Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal


Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.

The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.

President Obama called the deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.” Continue reading

Sharks & Jets


Thursday morning someone among us posted this. I read it and cheered. Getting on a jet plane to escape to nature, which is problematic to begin with, is made ultra-problematic by landing in the vicinity of a biodiversity hotspot and swimming with trapped animals. We are opposed to it, putting it mildly. Get on a jet, immerse in nature, but let sharks be sharks.

Thursday evening Amie and I were dining with friends who we met in Costa Rica when they were on vacation. They have not been to Baja California Sur, and we were encouraging them to go to Villa del Faro with their kids, who love nature. The mom in the family said, half jokingly, that she had been thinking about going to get into one of those shark cages. We all said, polite-laughingly, that we would be there to support her from the shore. We did not feel the need to get serious and educate about why we would not really support her doing this. 12 hours later this video showed up in the Guardian, and I sent the clip to them, adding to the viral status it now has, to point out the coincidental extra humor. Two days later, not so funny:

Shark conservationists fear backlash after viral cage-smashing video

Experts emphasize that the incident, in which a great white broke through a cage holding a diver, was a ‘one in a million occurrence’

in New York

Shark enthusiasts are concerned about the impact of a viral video that showed a great white shark breaking into a cage occupied by a diver in Mexico.

The diver survived, but the harrowing video shed light on a decades-old tourism industry that allows people to be within an arm’s length of great white sharks, separated only by the sea and some metal bars. Continue reading

Nudging In The UK


Electric cars using the bus lane (left) during morning rush hour in Oslo, Norway. Photograph: Pierre-Henry Deshayes/AFP/Getty Images

Like the little victories in wilderness conservation, which may be too little to late or maybe a bright spot on a bleak horizon, the small moves in the right direction on other environmental fronts seem promising, and therefore worthy of note. We salute Mayor Khan for his efforts to get Londoners to do their part, according to this story below. It reminds me of Richard Thaler‘s explanation of the power of nudging things along in the right direction, and wishing these nudge stories were more commonplace in the eight years since we started hearing about them:

Electric vehicles could go first at traffic lights under UK clean air zone plans

Government proposals to tackle air pollution in five UK cities could see electric vehicle drivers using bus lanes and getting priority at traffic lights

Drivers of electric vehicles could be allowed to use bus lanes in five UK cities and even go first at traffic lights, to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, the government has suggested. Continue reading

Elephants & The Buzzer


The arrest of a key member of an ivory-trafficking group is a bright spot in an otherwise complicated season for African elephants. PHOTOGRAPH BY PATRICK ROBERT / SYGMA / GETTY

We wish conservation was always all about warm and fuzzy topics, but it is not. We are mostly confronted with habitat loss, climate change and other human-initiated causes of threat to species’ survival. The worst of all, from a jolting immediacy perspective, but probably the simplest to counter, is the poaching. Men take animal lives only for body parts that have a mystique–medicinal, ornamental, or whatever–to people in faraway lands willing to pay a price that poachers cannot say no to. That is the problem.

Stories like this one below are too seldom to allow us to have confidence in the underdog winning. The underdog in this game is many points behind, and the clock in this game is ticking down very quickly. We vigilantly watch for stories like this in hope that the elephants beat the buzzer:



Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, in northern Republic of Congo, consists of sixteen hundred square miles of Central African rain forest and is jointly administered by the Congolese ministry of forests and the Wildlife Conservation Society, of the Bronx.

Lying just east of the Sangha River, the park is home to significant populations of western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, giant forest hogs, and, above all, to some five thousand forest elephants. Like elephants everywhere in Africa, those in the park are, increasingly, under siege. Two years ago, when I visited,  the park’s technical adviser, Tomo Nishihara, told me that the numbers of elephants in the park and its surrounding buffer zones had fallen from ten thousand to five thousand in just five years. “That gives us five more years before they’re gone,” he said. Continue reading

South India Via NYC


Before moving to India in 2010, my search for the perfect Indian restaurant, in North America and Europe and anywhere else Indian expats were numerous, was a constant. Now, when I travel outside India, my culinary quests are inverted; I never search for Indian while traveling. But Pete Wells makes me think I should rethink next time I am in New York City:

Pondicheri Makes Indian Flavors an All-Day Affair


“This is the first place you’ve taken me where I’d come back and spend my own money,” a friend said in the middle of lunch at Pondicheri. He is highly sensitive to pretension and unjustified expense, so whenever I take him along on one of my hunting parties, I try to pick something with a high ratio of flavor to price. At Pondicheri, I finally hit his sweet spot. Continue reading

Great Brothers


Frank Craighead, left, with a goshawk, and John Craighead, right, with a peregrine falcon, in the late nineteen-thirties.

It is rare that we link to remembrances or obituaries in these pages, but the rare occasions are typically when it was someone(s) who we did not know about and realize we should have. This seems to me to be one of those cases where I can recommend the short read about two superstars of the best variety. It starts with a melancholy air, but gets bright and is worth reading to the end:


At dawn on Sunday, September 18th, a blanket of clouds hung over the tawny grass mountainsides around Missoula, Montana. The cottonwoods had begun to turn yellow. Continue reading

Honeybees, Workers, Unite


Every now and then a podcast changes my view on something important. Sometimes I cannot tell exactly what shifted my view–case in point is the podcast below which is full of facts I already knew, and if you have been following our site at all in recent years you would have seen dozens of posts covering many of these same facts. But somehow the personal touch of the two guests on this podcast intensified my view of the importance of bees in general, honeybees in particular, and our responsibility for finding a path to a future where bees can survive:

How Honeybees — and Humans — Are Being Stung by Environmental Problems

It’s just a tiny insect, but the humble honeybee has a huge impact on our way of life. Aside from providing honey, honeybees are responsible for pollinating a majority of the crops consumed in the United States and around the world, from blueberry patches in Maine to almond groves in California. But honeybees are facing both natural and manmade threats that are killing them by the millions. A major result of these threats — colony collapse disorder — is already being felt in the beekeeping industry, which has reported astounding losses in recent years. Continue reading

Library Reading Room, Luxury, Legacy


The Rose Reading Room is luxurious in the way that only certain shared spaces can be. Its grandeur attracts its visitors, and is in turn amplified by their presence: the true urban symbiosis. PHOTOGRAPH BY DREW ANGERER / GETTY

It was the room in the photo above where I sat, in the early 1990s, collecting some data for a research project that would eventually become my doctoral dissertation. I had been in that room once or twice in my youth, but as an adult on a specific mission (little did I know the data collected that day would help me develop ideas that we now call entrepreneurial conservation within La Paz Group) the room barely registered in my notice. Except as a very practical place to read some historical documents.

So I am delighted to see that room again after a long time. It looked great to me the last time I saw it. Now I can say wow for different reasons. The legacy of the room is protected, and perhaps renewed for another hundred years. If you click the image and go to a larger viewing with greater detail, you will understand why the word luxury fits in the title of this post on the New Yorker website.

It is not our practice to use the word luxury because it is so laden with old and often inappropriate (considering the ecological condition of the planet, considering advances in socio-economic development, and considering other modern sensibilities) meanings. So we appreciate when others take care in how they use it:



To say that the ceiling of the Rose Main Reading Room, at the New York Public Library’s main building, on Fifth Avenue—the biggest room in the biggest public-library branch in the country’s biggest city—is an ornate piece of work is putting it mildly. Continue reading

The Morning Walk At Aarvli


As soon as there is enough light each day I start my walk from the Aarvli bluffs to the water below. I start in the estuary, then move along the sea. The patterns around sunrise are not unlike those at sunset.


Fishing with this type of boat is a community activity, day in and day out. Many are required to get the boat back onto shore, first with the nets coming off and then the boat being block and tackled up the sand. Continue reading

Save The Truffle, A Campaign We Are Destined To Support

3b044a32123901-56703376190bcThis is a series of videos realized to launch “Save The Truffle” a new brand aiming to promote traditions and the conservation of the White Truffle of Alba. In this videos Agnello Renato, one of the last and most important “trifulau” (truffle seeker) of the zone, shares his stories about being a truffle seeker.For this project I took care of shooting, lighting and editing.
Creative project by Grid Studio.

Our family has a very happenstance connection to truffles that goes back to some sustainable tourism development work I carried out in Croatia starting in 2000, which led to our nirvanic 2006-2007 spent on an island in the southern Adriatic. But on my first visit to Croatia, in late autumn 2000, on a weekend off from work a local friend took me to Istria and the rest is history. You either love them or you probably will be disgusted by them, and I was in the former camp. A month later, coming home to my family in Costa Rica, I had some vacuum-packed fresh truffles; since then, we have been devotees.

A few years later, Milo became an encyclopedic mycophile, and a few years after that Seth had the chance to take a mycology courses at Cornell as an undergrad. So we are all happy to see this campaign represented by the logo above left. The article that brought our attention to this campaign is worth a read, whether you are a foodie, a fungist, or any kind of traditionalist. Click the logo to see some of the early creative work emerging for the campaign. We look forward to seeing more, but for now appreciate the journalist’s keen eye for what really matters in this story:

Amid Hills of Wine and Truffles, a Mission to Give Fungus Room to Breathe

Tasting The Place


Where I am located, since last week and until next, there is an abundance of flavors; both in terms of intensity and in terms of diversity. Thanks to a longstanding tradition of ensuring that those flavors pop, there is not only salt, but salt inspection. Only the finest will do, and the finest is also harvested locally. Just as the fish is harvested locally as in the photo below, taken a few hundred meters from where I am typing right now.


Continue reading

Absurdity In Vivid, Brilliant Living Color


Clear-cutting along Highway 30 in Oregon. A bipartisan group of senators wants the government to assume that burning forests to generate electricity does not add carbon dioxide to the air but is instead “carbon neutral.” Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times

We have stayed away from politics as much as possible on this platform, except to celebrate innovative successes in the interest of conservation; but this news item is a must-share due to the gravity of its weirdness:

Next ‘Renewable Energy’: Burning Forests, if Senators Get Their Way

Eduardo Porter

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan — the central plank in his strategy to combat climate change — is in danger.

It’s not just that it is under attack in court, where its legality was challenged last week by a coalition of 28 states and scores of companies and industry groups. Or that fossil fuel interests and Republicans in Congress will keep trying to block it, whatever the courts decide.

The president’s plan to reduce emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the nation’s power sector could be undone within a matter of weeks by an unlikely bipartisan collection of senators that includes staunch Republican climate change deniers as well as Democrats who support the administration’s strategy. Continue reading

A River Runs Through Amboli Reserve

On my Saturday afternoon I followed up a morning of farm visits with a visit to the local agricultural research extension of the state university. More on that tomorrow. For now, I want to share some images from my Sunday exploration about an hour from the farms described, due inland and into the Western Ghats. Specifically, Amboli Reserve, which is in the view above.

Continue reading

Agricultural Exploration, Flavor Surprise



Where is Asha, or at least her book? I could utilize her culinary inputs related to southern Indian vegetables and flavors right about now.

I am in the coastal region of southern Maharashtra now, just north of the Goa border. The cuisine is different from that of Kerala, but with many of the same vegetable inputs. For ten days my mission is primarily to food-focused. For a new project we are working on, our current task is to determine what food items will be grown on property and which will we sourced from local farmers. This is always a curious task. Continue reading

Tale Of Two Souths

Two Souths.jpg

I had the distinct pleasure of dining with a friend at Asha’s restaurant in Atlanta, and of having a discussion with Asha after dinner about our inverted common experience of operating restaurants in these two souths referenced in the title of her new cookbook (she has family in Kerala and I have family in Atlanta, and we both live in one another’s country of birth).

My foodie dinner companion and I thought it would be interesting for Asha to come to Kerala to share her culinary talents in one or more of the kitchens we were in the process of setting up at the time of that dinner a couple years ago. Asha was then, and obviously remains, quite too busy for that. Go, Asha!

Review: An Indian Twist on Southern Cuisine in ‘My Two Souths’


Can the remix be better than the original? It’s something to contemplate while working through the chef Asha Gomez’s debut cookbook, “My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India Into a Southern Kitchen,” with Martha Hall Foose. Ingredients make unexpected cameos that often steal the show. Continue reading

Organic Is A Word Well Suited To Curiosity

From the Oxford English Dictionary, skipping past the obsolete and rare definitions of the word organic, and picking the ones we find most interesting for our purposes, all of which predate by decades, and even centuries, one of the latest uses of the word organic in the categorization of a method of agriculture:

Belonging to the constitution of an organized whole; structural.

Of or relating to an organized structure compared to a living being.

Of, relating to, or characterized by connection or coordination of parts into a single, harmonious whole; organized; systematic.

Designating a work of art in which the parts seem naturally or necessarily coordinated into the whole; (Archit.) (in the writings of Frank Lloyd Wright) designating a style which attempts to make a unity of a building and its setting and environment; (also, more generally) designating any of various styles in which the character of buildings is more or less reminiscent of a living organism.

Characterized by continuous or natural development; (Business) designating expansion generated by a company’s own resources, as opposed to that resulting from the acquisition of other companies.

We care about these definitions because the word organic comes into our conversations constantly. We have avoided overuse in these pages of this and other words that we care about. But recently this word stands out, worthy of more of our attention. We will use it more, but carefully. A balance is required.


Extinction As Impetus For Travel?


We are all used to looking at guidebooks to learn more about a country before we visit – but how often do we stop and think about the things we can’t see there anymore? We’ve created Unknown Tourism, a series of vintage-style travel posters to commemorate some of the wonderful creatures we’ve lost, and are in danger of forgetting.

We try to be glass half full, so we will wait and see where this campaign (click the banner above) is going. I am drawn to anything that raises awareness of the need for conservation. It helps that the illustrations are evocative. Bravo to Expedia UK for thinking outside the box and making it look good.

But a travel company highlighting extinction to encourage travel is certainly going to strike some as problematic. Even there, I say bravo to them for taking a step in an unusual direction, and I hope it leads somewhere meaningful (as opposed to just attractively intriguing). Continue reading