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Rains that Don’t Wet

Hatgal, Mongolia If you visit a Mongolian ger, be prepared for a few things. First, you’ll be served a thin-walled bowl of weak tea. Sometimes it tastes salty. Sometimes the surface glistens with a few spots of fat that’ll coat your lips. It’s always served with milk—yak, cow or camel—and never with sugar. A ger,…

Global Warming Makes a Splash

I’m traveling the world in search of the human face of the impacts of climate change. I encountered a sobering example yesterday, in Carhuaz, Peru. There, I met Juana, a middle-aged woman dressed in a white embroidered shirt, orange skirt and a grey felt hat. One Sunday morning in April 2010 Juana puttered around the…

An Optimist

I’ve never before met anyone as thoroughly optimistic as Peruvian glaciologist Benjamin Morales. I asked him today if his rosy take on life began when he narrowly missed death in 1970. On May 31st 41 years ago Morales lunched near his home in the town of Yunguay. Despite protestations of friends who had joined him…

Glacier Close Up

Nearly all the world’s tropical glaciers cap mountains of the Andes. If you wonder why, look at where the highest peaks in the tropics are located and you’ll have your answer. About three quarters of these glaciers top Peruvian peaks providing the South American country with a natural resource of immense value and justifiable pride.…

Lima’s Brown Coast

Lima and its contiguous suburbs and shantytowns sprawl between a sand-brown desert of undulating hills on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Today, accompanied by my translator, Dado, and driver, Juan Carlos, I sped down an avenue that hugs the shoreline.  A cliff of crumbly soil impregnated with small stones towered above…

How Will Lima Slake its Growing Thirst?

Lima is one of the cities of the world most immediately threatened by global warming. The capital of Peru was built on the edge of a desert, one of the driest in the world. And its primary source of water is a small river, the Rimac. The Rimac’s water trickles off glaciers high in the Andes which, unfortunately for Limeños, are rapidly melting. Peru has lost about 30 percent of its glacial ice in the last 40 years.

Oil’s insidious impact on Ecuador’s culture and biodiversity

By Daniel Grossman Quito, Ecuador–For anybody who needed convincing, the Deepwater Horizon accident has proven that tapping the Earth for oil can be hazardous for workers and the environment. But oil wells harm the people and wildlife around them even when no pipes break and no fluids leak. South American tapirs, such as this one,…

Ecuador’s oil demons

By Daniel Grossman Quito, Ecuador–The Deepwater Horizon accident reminds us that oil drilling is dirty business. Ecuadorans know this fact. They’ve lived off, and with, oil for more than three decades. For many Ecuadorans, oil promised riches but delivered ruin. Along with great wealth, for a few, it stimulated political vice and the noxious excretions.…

Bolivian Conference Chooses Mother Earth Over Father Time

By Daniel Grossman Cochabamba, Bolivia–Rarely if ever has the word “Pachamama” been uttered at an international gathering as often or as passionately as at last week’s climate conference near Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city. For most of the week, Tiquipaya, a tiny Cochabamba suburb,echoed with strident accusations against “el Norte,” and loud denunciations of capitalism.…