I’m coming to the end of a wonderful four-month fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, Sweden, a city that celebrates at every turn its most illustrious citizen: the 18th-century botanist, zoologist, and “father of modern taxonomy,” Carl Linnaeus (a.k.a. Carl von Linné or simply “Linnaeus”) (1707–1778). From the eight trails on which he took his students every spring to learn about the geology, ecosystems, plants, and animals surrounding Uppsala—the Herbationes Upsalienses—to his grave in the Uppsala Cathedral, there is some place to visit and something to do every long day of the late spring and summer months to celebrate his legacy. I’ll write more about that another time, but today, I want to write about the disappearance from historical memory of one of his daughters, Sara Christina (1751–1835).
Although today is my last day in Singapore and I returned my rented bike 10 days ago, my series on biking in Singapore would be incomplete without recounting a two-day adventure across the island and back in search of and eventually on part of the Singapore Rail Corridor trail.
My intention had been to ride the Coast-to-Coast trail from West Coast Park to Coney Island Park (magenta line to the east in the map above) and then ride west to pick up the Rail Corridor at Kranji Road (the northern terminus of the blue line in the map above). But I couldn’t find the northern end of the Rail Corridor, my GPS kept trying to send me across the causeway to Johor (Malaysia), it started to rain, and the batteries on both my phone and my GoPro gave out, so I ended up heading straight south back to home base.
That is, a “triathalon” of biking, hiking, and an end-of-the day dip in the pool… Continue reading
Singapore is an exciting city, but it can be confusing and intimidating to learn about and get around. An island city-state, Singapore has an area of about 780 km2 (about 280 sq. miles)—about the same size as New York City—and about 5.7 million people (more than any other city in the US except for New York City). The excellent subway system is a quick and efficient way to get around, but being underground doesn’t afford much of a view of one’s surrounds or an easy way to get oriented. With its equatorial heat and humidity, long walks are not the most comfortable way to explore Singapore. However, Singapore has an accessible and expanding network of hard-surfaced “park connectors” (separated from the main roads) that make bicycling across and around the island a pleasant way to explore the city and its various parks and green spaces. Continue reading
Perched in the São Paulo airport, in between Belém and Houston, thence to Boston, my 14-month sabbatical is coming to what seems an all-to-soon close. But it has been an awesome year, capped by a really excellent two-and-a-half weeks working with Rogério Silva, mostly in the rainforest at Caxiuanã. But Belém deserves mention, too. A sprawling, filthy, and yet exuberant city of more than 2 million people perched near the mouth of the Amazon River, it has a waterfront with pedestrian esplanades, museums and forts, working docks, and an iron market with all sorts of delicacies from the Amazon basin. And at least one superb restaurant. In this post, I share four of my most notable memories of Belém: a cool breeze, the flanelas, the iron market/waterfront, and a dinner out.
It’s been just over a week since I published my World View, “It’s time to get real about conservation” in Nature. The response to this op-ed has been, at least to me, nothing short of astonishing and a bit overwhelming. Individuals have actually commented on it on Nature’s web page, it’s ricocheted around the Twitterverse, and I’ve gotten a handful of new followers and dozens of direct messages and emails thanking me for the catharsis (really!) of writing what others have thought about but haven’t been willing to say aloud, looking for advice on moving into conservation careers, and probing for ways to support conservation activism and activists. A few asked for additional background data, examples of biodiversity triage, and more suggestions for what to do next. So I thought I’d use some plane time between Kunming (China) and Tokyo (Japan) to provide a bit of background on the op-ed, give credit where credit is more than due, and to expand on some of the key points.
I’m on my last week of nine here in China, and for new and unforgettable experiences, it’s been pretty extraordinary. It’s not everyday one is deliberately set afire!
Perhaps the most inescapable aspect of being in China is the feeling one gets from being in a sea of over 1.3 billion people in a country the size of the United States (which has less than 1/3 of that number). It always feels like every last one of them is in the street at the same time I’m trying to cross it. Yet for all the traffic in its innumerable forms—cars, tricycles, pedal-powered and electric bicycles, donkey-drawn carts, and feet—going every which way at the same time, there are few accidents. The vehicles and pedestrians move at slow speeds and just seem to flow organically around one another in a Brownian dance.
But even more noticeable to a Western (i.e., US, European) eye than the crowds is the cultural tendency in China for people to do things in groups, often really large ones. The most noticeable are the groups exercising together on the streets and in the parks, but tour groups, school groups (all in identical t-shirts), and large family groups are everywhere and personal space—so important in many Western cultures—feels painfully absent.
And as a visitor here, albeit one who was invited to various institutions and is being supported by the Chinese government, this feeling is accentuated by the seemingly constant companionship (or in my more churlish moods, “handling”) of friends and colleagues who appear to manage effortlessly to fill virtually every waking hour of my days here with seminars, field trips, discussions, and meals—all activities that keep me en-grouped.
So while I’ve been in China, not only have I had to work hard find and make time for myself when I’m not otherwise sleeping, but I have also found myself looking for instances and examples of how people here carve out even small amounts of personal space. Continue reading
The seminar storm has wound down – in the last 11 days, I’ve given 12 talks at 10 universities and research institutes in three major cities spanning nearly 2000 km It’s a new personal record for me that, despite the daily adrenaline rushes, I’d rather not repeat anytime soon.
Since the beginning of this week, I’ve been based at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Research Center for Eco-Environmental Research (RCEES) in northwest Beijing, conveniently down the road from the Chinese National Science Foundation offices and more-or-less around the corner from Peking University. The skies have been clear, the taxi rides uneventful as I’ve shuttled to and from seminars at the Institute for Tibetan Plateau Research , Beijing Normal University , Minzu University , Peking University , RCEES , the food plentiful and interesting, and the friends and colleagues wonderful. And today, October 1, is China’s National Day, celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China on this day in 1949.
It’s been almost a week since I’ve found any time to write a post from China. As I wrote last week, I left Beijing on Monday for Shenyang: the first four days of what has now turned into a 10-day, 9-lecture typhoon (yes indeed, a lot of hot air swirling around!) / movable feast (click on any image to view larger ones in a slide show).