May 17, 2013 9:16 am
Picture a mountain climber, trekking up Mount Everest. Is he kind of burly? Does he have a beard? He’s probably a man—a white man. That’s about accurate: 78 percent of Americans who took part in activities outdoors last year were white. Only 37 percent of African American kids between 6 and 12 did any sort of outdoor sport, from hiking to fishing.
Expedition Denali, a group of teachers and students dedicated to promoting hiking and outdoor activities among minority groups, just ran a successful Kickstarter to fund 12 teachers and students who will become the first African American team to reach the top of Denali—North America’s highest mountain. Here is their video:
Other organizations are trying to increase the diversity of their outdoor groups as well. Outside Magazine reports on the National Outdoor Leadership School:
In 1994, the Lander, Wyoming, nonprofit devised a diversity program that has since doled out more than $1.5 million in scholarships to help get minority youth into its courses, which teach wilderness and leadership skills through extended adventure trips. “We work hard to recruit young people of color, but we still struggle,” says Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, who manages NOLS’s diversity program. “There are many barriers, including the lack of role models.” That’s where Expedition Denali comes in, and NOLS has budgeted nearly $250,000 for the group’s efforts.
Another website, Outdoor Afro, tries to encourage minorities to get outdoors as well. The group’s founder, Rue Mapp, explains why she started Outdoor Afro in this NPR interview. Her site describes the group’s purpose this way:
Outdoor Afro is a social community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more!
Outdoor Afro disrupts the false perception that black people do not have a relationship with nature, and works to shift the visual representation of who can connect with the outdoors.
Together, these sites and expeditions hope to communicate with communities that don’t tend to participate in hiking, climbing, fishing and biking. And while they acknowledge that 12 people reaching the top of one mountain won’t solve all the problems, it can help raise awareness of the tiny numbers of minorities who hike in the first place.
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May 13, 2013 12:49 pm
In 1066, the town of Dunwich began its march into the sea. After storms swept the farmland out for twenty years, the houses and buildings went in 1328. By 1570, nearly a quarter of the town had been swallowed, and in 1919 the All Saints church disappeared over the cliff. Dunwich is often called Britain’s Atlantis, a medieval town accessible only to divers, sitting quietly at the bottom of the ocean off the British Coast.
Now, researchers have created a 3D visualization of Dunwich using acoustic imaging. David Sear, a professor at the University of Southampton, where the work was done, described the process:
Visibility under the water at Dunwich is very poor due to the muddy water. This has limited the exploration of the site. We have now dived on the site using high resolution DIDSON ™ acoustic imaging to examine the ruins on the seabed – a first use of this technology for non-wreck marine archaeology.
DIDSON technology is rather like shining a torch onto the seabed, only using sound instead of light. The data produced helps us to not only see the ruins, but also understand more about how they interact with the tidal currents and sea bed.
Using this technology gives them a good picture of what the town actually looks like. Ars Technica writes:
We can now see where the local churches stood, and crumbling walls pinpoint the ancient town’s remits. A one kilometer (0.6 mile) square stronghold stood in the center of the 1.8km2space (about 0.7 square miles), with what looks like the remains of Blackfriars Friary, three churches, and the Chapel of St Katherine standing within it. The northern region looks like the commercial hub with lots of smaller buildings largely made of wood. It’s thought that the stronghold, as well as its buildings and a possible town hall, may date back to Saxon times.
Professor Sears sees this project as not just one of historical and archaeological importance, but also as a forecast of the fate of seaside cities. “It is a sobering example of the relentless force of nature on our island coastline. It starkly demonstrates how rapidly the coast can change, even when protected by its inhabitants. Global climate change has made coastal erosion a topical issue in the 21st Century, but Dunwich demonstrates that it has happened before. The severe storms of the 13th and 14th Centuries coincided with a period of climate change, turning the warmer medieval climatic optimum into what we call the Little Ice Age.”
So, in a million years, when aliens come to look at our planet, it might look a lot like Dunwich.
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May 6, 2013 10:33 am
American tourists have a pretty bad reputation. They’re considered loud, pushy and whiny. There are lots of online guides to help you avoid looking like an American abroad with tips like “nothing screams ‘I’m an Ugly American Tourist’ like a baseball cap” and “quit whining about the smoke, you’re not going to get lung cancer from a two week vacation.” But a recent and extremely informal survey by Conde Nast Traveler reveals that many service workers don’t find Americans that bad at all. The editors traveled around and asked hotel managers, waiters, flight attendants, tour guides and front-desk clerks what they really think about Americans.
One front-desk clerk in France even said that they missed the American tourists. “We used to make fun of Americans for not knowing their fingers from their toes in terms of European history and geography. But since the recession, we miss them,” he said. “They’re really polite to everyone. The guests who are filling their shoes come from cultures where it’s acceptable to be harsh or abusive to people who serve you, which has been a real shock to us.” A tour guide in Berlin said that “Americans are a lot sweeter and more curious than most.” A Kenyan Safari guide agreed, saying, “Americans are probably the kindest and most generous people we work with. They’re happy with everything we show them.”
Of course, not every experience with an American is great. Especially if that American is from New York City. A hotel manager in Cambodia described New Yorkers as “are a tough lot—not go-with-the-flow types at all!” A flight attendant said that New Yorkers give her a hard time too. “New York to south Florida is one of the worst. They don’t appreciate anything. They don’t say thank you, and they don’t return a smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in New York, but there’s something about putting a bunch of New Yorkers on a plane.”
Of course, the service workers all also had tips for not annoying your host country. The biggest ones involved coffee. “We don’t do cappuccino, mocha, all those crazy things you find in America, and we rarely have soy milk,” one French waiter said. “If you want a waiter to really hate you, ask for a decaffeinated coffee, because those have to be made by hand in many cafés.”
So while Americans may still have a reputation for being brash and rude, those who are nice and don’t order decaf can leave a pretty good impression.
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May 2, 2013 12:03 pm
It’s hard to say exactly how many climbers have attempted to summit Mount Everest. As of 2011, 3,100 had logged climbs to the top of the 29,028-foot mountain. But it’s not a game from everybody. On top of dealing with the physical challenges, climbers have to be loaded. The average trip to the top costs at least $30,000.
The biggest ticket item on the bill is the permit. The Nepalese government charges $70,000 for a party of seven, and $25,000 for anyone who’s going it alone. After that, you pay camp fees to use the camps, and you pay a local government official to stay in that camp and make sure you’re actually supposed to be there.
The gear is the next big purchase. Oxygen bottles cost $500 a pop. Most climbers bring six. There’s all the normal climbing equipment, like shoes and hiking poles and tents. But in this case, climbers need a yak to get that stuff to Base Camp, which costs another $150 a day. That’s all without paying a guide and sherpa to help you along.
Interestingly, while climbing equipment (and, as a result, the safety of the climb) has changed, the cost hasn’t really. Outside Magazine writes:
The median cost hasn’t changed much over the years, despite more technology and rescue options, additional guide services, and increased government regulation. Many operations that were charging $65,000 in the ‘90s are still selling trips at that same rate in 2013. Cheaper expeditions have increased their prices due to legislation from the Nepalese government that mandated how much Sherpas and porters have to be paid, and there are more “budget” Sherpa-guided operations available, but, for the most part, Everest might be one of the few places in the world that has escaped inflation.
The ticket price of Everest is a big deal for the local community, too. Nepal makes about $3 million each year off the permits alone. And the influx of visitors helps to support guides, local food, companies, hotels and restaurants in the region. Oh, and if you want WiFi, that could cost another $4,000. But at a certain point, that’s just one more line item—and at least you’ll be able to live-tweet your trip.
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April 26, 2013 12:32 pm
Avid users of The Pirate Bay, perhaps the best known file-sharing site on the internet, might have noticed that its URL has changed from thepiratebay.se to thepiratebay.is. Those two little letters on the end indicate a geographic move from Sweden to Iceland. But Iceland wasn’t the site’s first choice for a new home: it was supposed to move over to Greenland, but Greenland wasn’t so keen on hosting new pirate residents.
Earlier this month, the website sought to set up a virtual home in Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, under the name thepiratebay.gl. Its administrators feared that authorities were about to shut it down in its home country of Sweden, in a possible crackdown on the high-volume of copyrighted films, TV shows, and software shared illegally via the service. Greenland thought unfavorably about being connected to the Pirate Bay and promptly booted it out, forcing the site to return to Sweden.
Before their .se location, the pirates lived at a .org address. The site abandoned that address, because the authorities in the United States were cracking down on copyright-infringing activities. But after wandering the high seas of the internet, though, the Pirate Bay might have found a semi-permanent home in Iceland, a country that has established itself as a safe haven for data of all types, illicit or not.
Iceland began this quest with Wikileaks in 2010, announcing that they supported the project and would house the data on Icelandic soil. At the same time, they pushed forward something called the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which aimed to provide a safe haven for all sorts of investigative journalism projects.
But there are some things that Iceland isn’t okay with, like pornography. The country is attempting to ban both online and print pornography right now. Which raises the question—do they realize what many people use The Pirate Bay for, in the first place?
So the pirates may have to be on the move again some time soon. Which is fitting, for their name, if annoying for their servers and tech people.
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