Today’s Atlantis

Today’s Atlantis

Pacific islanders are experiencing the effects of global warming and becoming climate change refugees. The family’s buia—or hut—sits on Abaiang’s shore, its brown color blending in with the bush behind it. Most of the huts are far enough back from the ocean to not be affected by the waves during high tide. But one is out on the horizon, close enough to the impending waves to cause alarm. “You’d have families who would have waves washing underneath their huts and when asked why the heck they built so close to the ocean,” Ryan Turner said, “they’d say this is actually their grandparents’ house, and it was never actually that close to the water.” Rising water levels is an outcome of climate change, and it is greatly impacting many Pacific islands like Abaiang—an outer island of Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific. Ryan lived in Kiribati for two years and later studied the effect of climate change on the Kiribati culture. “I see climate change affecting the people of Kiribati in the everyday sense,” Ryan said. “For instance, a mixture of overfishing plus rising ocean temperatures are causing a massive drop in fish populations. For a culture and country like Kiribati where it predominantly gets its food from the ocean, climate change is affecting its everyday life.” Because of the rising water due to climate change, the island life is changing drastically for Kiribati natives. Many are emigrating to other countries to survive. A Google search for “Kiribati climate change” reveals scholarly articles, an extensive New York Times project, and even a website created by the Kiribati government...

Boston Strong

Nestled beside a peaceful bay in the middle of Massachusetts is one of America’s oldest and most prized jewels: the city of Boston. It is a city known for its rich history and pride—and, perhaps most importantly, its strength. Throughout its history it has weathered both figurative and literal storms. It symbolizes, in many ways, the strength and resolve of not only the American dream, but of the human spirit. Birth of a Nation Boston played an important role during the formative years of the United States. Several famous and pivotal moments of the American Revolution happened in or around Boston: the Boston Massacre, the Siege of Boston, the Boston Tea Party, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the battle of Bunker Hill. The ideals of American liberty, which would shape this young nation’s future, were born in Boston. The Boston Massacre proved to the young colonists that imperialism was a violent and unjust way of government. The Boston Tea Party symbolized the colonists’ resistance to British rule, and it was a major step toward the Revolution. And the first battles for American independence occurred just outside Boston, on the battlefields of Lexington and Concord. Even from its beginnings, Boston has been more than just a town or city to its people and its country. It has been an icon of resolution and commitment. It has been an icon of strength. Beantown Education Nearly a century and a half before the American Revolution even began, the Boston area established its standing as a center for higher learning. In 1636, Harvard University was...
The Shikoku Pilgrimage: A Traveler’s Guide

The Shikoku Pilgrimage: A Traveler’s Guide

A gentle brook bristles in the distance, and the soft plodding of travelers’ feet on damp moss fills the hush of the Japanese forest. Travelers dressed in white pack up their tents, and you join them as they shoulder their belongings and begin their journey. A dirt path winds along a crest overlooking miles of cascading rice fields. A bridge marked with mysterious symbols hangs over a dry riverbed with broken boulders like abandoned shrines. Finally, a stark red gate stands out among the overgrown green, signaling the entrance to an ancient temple. This is the Shikoku Pilgrimage. A Pilgrimage with Purpose The Shikoku Pilgrimage (or Shikoku Henro) is an invitation to live—at least for a short time—an ascetic lifestyle. The trail, which has no required beginning or end, leads travelers across the Japanese landscape as they visit 88 Buddhist temples to complete their pilgrimage. While the goal is to visit all of the temples, the true intention of the pilgrimage is to inspire spiritual reflection and meditation. The pilgrimage follows in the literal footsteps of Kōbō Daishi, a venerated pioneer of Buddhist teachings. At a young age he decided to forego his rightful position as emperor and return to Shikoku where he would travel as a sort of nomadic priest, traversing the mountains and spreading his teachings through his example and service. The temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage were either built or consecrated by Kōbō Daishi himself and his work made Buddhism and its practices accessible for the common people. While the long trail around the island challenges travelers physically, the temples that string the trail together allow...
Taming Wildlife Tourism

Taming Wildlife Tourism

On a sultry evening in January, wildlife officials in Thailand walked through the doors of one the most popular wildlife tourist attractions in the world, the Tiger Temple, armed with tranquilizers and sedatives. This tiger park run by Buddhist monks was world famous among animal lovers and international travelers because visitors had the rare opportunity to interact with the animals. For a fee, tourists could pet a grown tiger, feeling the short, coarse hair brush against their fingers, and listen to the gentle breathing of one of nature’s most majestic and deadly animals. Other visitors chose to spend their time in the park playing with baby tigers, holding the cubs in the nooks of their arms like a baby while bottle-feeding the newborns their breakfast of milk formula. Tourists came to the temple because they cared and wanted to learn more about tigers in an interactive and close environment. They thought that what they paid for admission was going to help with conservation efforts, or—at the very least—to increase the tigers’ quality of life. They never would have imagined that their money was supporting animal cruelty. For years former volunteers at the temple had expressed concerns regarding the poor treatment of the tigers, and NGOs in the area had long suspected that the temple’s management was breeding and illegally selling its tigers on the black market. When wildlife officials investigated, they were shocked by what they found. When tigers were not chained and on display for tourists, they were locked in cramped, concrete cages where they had little room to walk around. The tigers were being fed chicken instead...
Travel After Tragedy

Travel After Tragedy

When someone says the name of a famous place, an image floats to the foreground of the mind—a hazy, incomplete portrait of what makes that place important. Washington, D.C., brings to mind various historical sites and patriotic fervor. Tokyo brings to mind bright fashions and neon lights. London brings to mind classic literature and hot tea. Each place has a unique mental flavor, and when travelers leave, they are left with an aftertaste on their metaphorical palette for weeks, or sometimes even months, afterward. However, there are some places that can’t forget the overpowering taste of tragedy. When people hear the name Aurora, Colorado, they think of tear gas and shooting in a movie theater. When people hear about the Boston Marathon, they think of bombs. When they think of Nice, France, they think of the truck that plowed into a crowded street of people celebrating their nationality. Some of these incidents happened more recently than others, but the aftermath branded these towns and their residents forever. These people are survivors. They are fighters. But once the upheaval is over, they are healers and rebuilders, while still being parents and children. Once the post-upheaval crises are dealt with, they return to being bakers and bankers. Recently, there has been a push to change what we call those who have survived tragic events. We call them survivors rather than victims, because they are more than the bad things that have happened to them. People are not limited to their worst experiences; we are complex. Perhaps places should be given the same courtesy. One of the keywords that people think of...
Extreme Cammock King: Man Takes Hammocks and Camping to the Extreme

Extreme Cammock King: Man Takes Hammocks and Camping to the Extreme

There’s camping, there’s hammocking, and then there’s cammocking—that is, opting for a hammock while camping. Then, of course, there’s extreme cammocking: suspending a 2,000 square foot hammock of weaved rope over a 400-foot canyon. These woven hammock-like nets are also known as space nets. To Andy Lewis, they’re called thug mansions because, like a 2Pac song, “that’s the only place where thugs get free and you gotta be a G at thug mansion.” And Lewis has every right to call these cammocks “thug mansions”—after all, he invented them. Lewis, known as both “Sketchy Andy” and “Mr. Slackline,” started the unique fringe activity known as “netting.” The “mansions” originally began smaller, starting as backyard hammocks and nets in trees. Lewis describes his invention as a “mix between a treehouse and a spiderweb.” He began with one tree, then two, and has made his way up to weaving nets that span as many as 20 trees. Perfecting this new and unique craft took Lewis about seven years. Since then Lewis has traveled across the world, taking his “thug mansion” to places like Spain, Portugal, and Canada. At one point Lewis took his invention to the Borneo rainforest in Southeast Asia, where he weaved giant rope nets in the trees. “We basically set up the nets like the monkeys set up their nests,” Lewis said. But Lewis didn’t stop with trees; his favorite place to set up the nets, to hang out on “thug mansion,” is Moab, Utah. There, “thug mansion” spans across canyons. Lewis said it’s hard to pinpoint where such a wacky and epic idea came from. He said his...