Bamboo!

As I continue to build my statistical model of India’s forests and potential drivers of deforestation, I can’t help but be enamored by bamboo. I need land and I need to plant.

(This bamboo comes from an old growth stand in Madagascar when I was there in 2009. The photo doesn’t do justice to the monstrous size of this thicket. The creaking in the breeze was unnerving.)

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Hello, mouse lemur, don’t run away

Cute but difficult to photograph

Forgive this random photo, but I realized that I had the shot and never posted it.

Meet the mouse lemur, the smallest of Madagascar’s native, if strange, primates.

I managed to photograph him in a small tree during a hike through the Reserve de Nahampoana near Ft. Dauphin. This nocturnal little guy hides dutifully during the day, but even at night he’s a bit shy.

My guide spent the better part of an hour scouring various trees and bushes before we spotted him by torch light. He jumped away almost as soon as my flash went off. A second chance for better focus was not an option.

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Madagascar’s rare, unheralded flora

Last fall, I was in Madagascar and toured a forest preserve that protects a rare tree, call the sohisika. Above is an unpublished photo gallery form the trip, with botanists from the Missouri Botanical Garden, which runs the preserve.

(I know this is a flashback to the fall, but better late than never.)

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Published: Mining giant bills itself as eco-friendly?

My reporting from Madagascar last fall has finally been published. Globalpost.com picked up the story of the Rio Tinto mine that claims to be environmentally friendly.

The company has laid out an ambitious — some say impossible — environmental agenda in exchange for the rights to mine strips of coastal land for titanium

The Web site ran one of my photos as well. You can also see my entire gallery here.

Critics of the mine say its attempts at conservation and community development are little more than window dressing to procure mining rights. Indeed, the mine does have a lot of work yet to do, but it does have some NGOs on its side; time will tell, I suppose.

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It’s very cold in Delhi at the moment…

I had this one mostly to myself

I had this one mostly to myself

I’m actually wearing socks at the moment. I haven’t worn socks in six weeks.

And I’m wrapped in a Kenyan Maasai shawl. That’s how cold it is in my apartment in Delhi. The Jameson I’m sipping is only going so far.

So… the above picture is a little exercise in visualization. It’s my private beach in Tolagnaro, Madagascar. It actually wasn’t completely private, but it seemed that way when I took this picture on the hike there.

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A year-in-review

2009 kinda kicked ass

2009 kinda kicked ass

This past year pretty much rocked. And the New Year came in fine manner.  No kisses, but a bonfire amid the palm trees (above), new friends, lobster, a decent cigar (thanks, C!), champagne and even the Harry Connick, Jr., band playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight (never leave home without the iPod).

I meant to post this sooner, but here’s a little look back at my new life (as chronicled on this blog):

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Essentials: eggs, vegetables and cell-phone minutes

Traveling today, so here’s a Madagascar flashback:

Essentials: eggs, vegetables and cell phone credit

Bare necessities: food and communication

In Tolagnaro, if you’re not a farmer, if you don’t fish, if you don’t work at the Rio Tinto mine, you probably have a small market stall.

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An eco-friendly mine?

Mining giant Rio Tinto has an ambitious conservation agenda in connection with its titanium mine near Tolagnaro, Madagascar. It has created conservation zones that it won’t mine and pledged to regrow the forests that it destroys.

Critics say it won’t succeed, in part because too little will be conserved. NGOs also say the mine has been detrimental to local people, but the government approves because it represents significant foreign investment.

The above photos were taken at the Mandena nursery, where plants are grown to one day repopulate the forest. A few shots are also from around Tolagnaro, also known as Ft. Dauphin. Rio Tinto does not allow photography of the mine itself.

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Saving a forest?

seeds

Saviors of the Mandena forest?

The hands belong to Johny Rabenantoandro, director of biodiversity and rehabilitation for Rio Tinto’s mine in southern Madagascar. Yes, you read that right. A mine, with a director of biodiversity.

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Things Africa taught me

I’ve now arrived in India and am getting settled and spending a little time with family in Pune. I’ve also been coming up with a list of lessons learned from seven weeks in Africa. In no particular order, here goes:

  • French, that language I really thought was useless, is so not useless. Especially if you’re in Madagascar in non-tourist towns, trying to report and the only people you meet competent enough in English to be a translator are either employees of the company you’re writing about or  activists in the community.
  • mudReef flip flops are awesome. Seriously. Reef. Write it down. Best sandal I’ve ever worn. Damn near the best thing I’ve ever put on my foot. For example, when I accidentally stepped into two and a half feet of quick mud and lost a flip flop (again, thanks Sara from London, for a great laugh), I immediately paid the local who pulled me out another 500 shillings (a little more than $7, probably his weekly wage) to get back in the mud and retrieve my flip flop. (Dear Reef, I’m hoping for an endorsement deal. “Backpack journalist in Third World swears by Reef sandals.” Sounds good, no?)
  • I like parentheses.
  • Eat bananas. Leg cramps suck.
  • Save some bananas for the lemurs.

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