Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Our planet often can seem otherworldly.  Case in point, consider these pictures of trees completely cocooned in the webs of an infinite number of spiders following the record floods that hit Sindh Pakistan at the end of last year.

Because of the amount of flooding and the time that it took for the water to begin to recede, the spiders took to the trees.  To add to the mystery, the people in the area report that there appeared to be fewer mosquitoes than they expected, especially given the amount of standing water that there had been.  Their thinking was that the webs caught the mosquitoes, thereby reducing the risk of malaria.  Amazing.


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A giant cave column swagged in flowstone towers over explorers swimming through the depths of Hang Ken, one of 20 new caves discovered last year in Vietnam.

A climber ascends a shaft of light in Loong Con, where humidity rises into cool air and forms clouds inside the cave.

Maureen’s Seventh Grade Geography class may want to dig into Hang Son Doong, the massive cave recently discovered in Central Vietnam.  Even the english translation of its name, Mountain River Cave, gives some poetic insight into its strange and endless subterranean world.  National Geographic‘s photographs illuminate an underground universe no less fantastic than a combination of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “There’s a jungle inside the mammoth cavern.  A skyscraper could fit too.  And the end is out of sight.”  At over 300 feet wide, and 800 feet tall there is enough for an entire New York City block of 40-story buildings. “There are actually wispy clouds up near the ceiling.”

Click here to look at the all the photos – you’ll be amazed.

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This heron gave me the opportunity yesterday to stop, catch my breath, and take a moment for reflection(s) while riding home from work.

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In the Norse creation myths life sprang out of a world made up of only fire and ice.  It might have looked something like the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull shown above.   Click here to see other must-see Eyjafjallajokull photos at Boston.com.  National Geographic also has some really cool pics here.

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On our last night in New Orleans, the 19 students and 6 faculty of this year’s Service trip are taking some time to reflect on our experiences.

Seeing the lower 9th ward – with some new construction from Habitat for Humanity and the Make it Right Project, but also many houses still in a state of destruction, surrounded by empty lot after empty lot. Experiencing the current state of the bayou, and learning about the costal erosion and the danger the city of New Orleans faces because of it.

Dana Brozost-Kelleher and Iman Abdul-Ali playing in the school yard with students.

Remember playing at recess with students of Mcdonogh 42, a charter school in the Treme area who’s students were all affected by Katrina in one way or another, and building them a rooftop garden to enjoy.

As all of the students experienced through group work, it’s difficult to even think about losing your family, your most treasured possessions, and the house you grew up in. Looking around at the destruction and emptiness that still exists in the city is the reason we’re here, and the reason we need to keep coming back, and keep contributing as much time as we can, to help rebuild a city rich with culture, diversity, and history.

the BURKE 2010 NOLA team leaning up against a newly cemented levee wall in the Lower 9th Ward.

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I’m writing from the McKendrick-Breaux House, the B&B the 2010 NOLA trip is staying at in the beautiful Garden District. It’s been an amazing trip (i’ll be sure you all get to see some of the 100’s of photos we’ve taken along the way) but I wanted to highlight one event we had yesterday, that changed my context for this trip, and the events of Katrina and the Levees Breaking.

Yesterday we met with author and playwright John Biguenet. I know him from working on one of his plays two years ago, Rising Water. He, and his family, live in New Orleans, and although they left just before the storm, he came back about four weeks later when the NY Times invited him to be their first ever guest columnist and asked him to document the state of the city. He did so in a series of blogs and videos you can find HERE

Among the many great and informative things he had to say, he really put in context what actually happened. He diagrams where the storm actually hit, and how New Orleans was completely passed over and left with little damage until hours later when the levees broke. He explained how the levee’s should have been 60′ deep but instead they were anywhere between 4′ and 20′ deep, and that while the Army Core of Engineers admitted fault (hidden in a 6,000 page document several years later) they still have not done anything tangible to rectify the situation.

One of the most eye-opening things he had to say was how, as a writer, it was his job to help the american people find a context to understand what had happened. Paraphrasing what he said: America has no ability to really understand the almost-full destruction of a city, as it’s something we’ve never had to deal with. The area affected by the levees breaking is (5?) times the size of Manhattan, making this man-made disaster much larger than anything we’ve ever seen on our land before. Europeans understood because they’ve seen their cities destroyed many times in history. We’ve never rebuilt an entire major metropolitan city before, both culturally, and physically, so how can we understand what that takes?

It was a really inspiring two-hour discussion we had with him, and definitely a moment that changed the trip for me, and my context for what really happened.

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Seeing the Light

Why's this man unhappy?

Could the day be coming soon when people look at the pic on the left and wonder what Thomas Edison is holding in his hand?  Lomox, a Welsh company, is developing light-emitting wallpaper and paint that may begin to replace light bulbs as soon as 2012.  According to a TimesOnline article, the wall coating will illuminate all parts of a room with an even glow, which mimics sunlight and avoids the shadows and glare of conventional bulbs.  And the developers claim that the new LED technology is 2.5 times more efficient than energy saving bulbs.  When can we start re-painting at Burke?

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