Entries in travel (263)

Thursday
Sep012011

Yasuní and the True Value of the Environment

Attaching a financial value to the environment has long been talked of as a potential solution to our destructive exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources. The outcome of the Yasuní situation will be an excellent indicator as to the ability of this economic approach to make a significant difference to conservation.

Image @Geoff Gallice

Many will claim that it is impossible to attach a monetary value to the natural world. But the Ecuadorian government has done just that. When an enormous oil field worth approximately $7-10bn was discovered beneath the Yasuní National Park, an area considered by many scientists to be the most bio-diverse region on the planet, the country faced a dilemma; cash in on the oil reserve and let an area of unparalleled environmental significance be destroyed, or resist the cash incentives offered by the oil companies and conserve the area.

Ecuador is a country facing poverty on a large scale, with approximately 33% of the population below the national poverty line; an issue that could potentially be addressed with the correct usage of profits from the Yasuní oil extraction. With this issue to consider, at no point has this been a simple choice between money and morals for the government to make. However, the tough decision was made, with neither of these options being taken. Former oil minister Alberto Acosta, a European-trained economist heavily involved in government policy at the time, was placed in charge of the future of Yasuní. His well-documented decision was to challenge the rest of the world to donate half of the value of the oil ($3.6bn) over 13 years, or they would give the go-ahead for oil companies to begin extraction. Acosta said: "We will leave the oil in the ground and save the forest and the people if you, the world, make a financial contribution.”

This remarkable ultimatum has been backed by 78% of Ecuador’s population, an amazing percentage considering the fact that a significant number of them are suffering the effects of poverty. As well as the support of the public, the plan has been declared a ‘safe environmental investment’ by the UN, which has also agreed to administer the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) Fund, established in August 2010. The plan is intended to avoid what has been dubbed the “oil curse”, a phenomenon that has seen oil rich, developing countries remain poor after having proceeded with the extraction of their oil reserves. The global community has until December 2011 to come up with $100m as a downpayment on the deal. On 14 August, The Observer claimed that $40m had been raised so far, with Chile, Peru, Spain, and Italy having made significant contributions.

The financial valuation of the environment is clearly a difficult thing to do. A recent attempt in the UK by The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) aimed to put a price on Britain’s natural environment. Professor Ian Bateman, of the University of East Anglia, and one of the study's lead authors, said: "Why would we want to put economic values on environmental goods and services? It's very simple – it's to ensure their incorporation on equal footing with the market-priced goods which currently dominate decision-making." Clearly this is very different from the situation in Ecuador. But the principle is similar; Oil has a clearly defined value on the world market, whereas a value has never been attached to the land ruined by the extraction of this valuable commodity. Therefore, like in the case of the British countryside, this land has never been on equal footing with the market-priced oil, and has therefore never stood a chance of competing with it.

The situation in Ecuador has forced the government to put a price tag on this land. It is interesting that the price they chose is half that of the oil beneath it: a good illustration of what we consider most important and valuable. However, this price need not necessarily be an accurate valuation of the land (how do you value unique and pristine rainforest with more species per hectare than in any other place?) Rather, the important thing is that the Ecuadorian government receives adequate compensation, and more important still, that the area is protected.

You can donate and follow the latest news regarding the Yasuní situation online.

By Alex Prior

Wednesday
Aug312011

Into the Wild meets: Simon Watt

Channel 4’s BAFTA winning ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’ is a truly exciting and eye-opening series. As the name suggests, it takes a look inside some of the animal world’s most amazing creatures. Today, Frontier speaks to one of the shows presenters, Simon Watt, about all things animals and travel. The third series of the show is now on Channel 4, and the first episode aired last night.  

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug262011

Great Migrations of the Animal Kingdom: Part Three

In the third and final part of this week’s look at incredible animal journeys, it is today the turn of those down to earth creatures with their feet firmly on the ground, as Frontier considers terrestrial migrations of the animal world.

Wildebeest - Southern Serengei (Tanzania) to Masai Mara (Kenya)

No feature on great animal migrations could be complete without looking at this amazing spectacle made famous by countless natural history documentaries and wildlife photographers. Everyone is familiar with images of this mass movement, which often focus on the various predators gorging themselves as the millions of wildebeest make their annual voyage.

The migration begins in the lush, short grasses of the southern Serengeti, where the herds gather in November. It is here that the animals calve, giving birth to their young at the beginning of February. The heard remain in this location until around April, leaving only when the calves have gained enough strength for the journey ahead. This period sees many predators taking advantage of the vulnerable calves. As the long rains move westwards through the central Serengeti, the wildebeest head north-west in search of the fresh pastures these rains bring. This brings them into the Western corridor and towards the Grumeti River, the crossing of which in June brings about the herd's first contact with the well-documented crocodiles lying in wait for their arrival. July sees the drying of the grasslands, forcing the herds to move north in search of food. The wildebeest will face another croc-infested river crossing as they head for the grasses of the Masai Mara throughout August and September. After grazing in the lush Mara grasslands, the herds eventually begin to move south again during late October and November. A final crossing of the perilous Mara River is made en route to the southern short-grass plains of the southern-Serengeti where the cycle begins once more.        

Christmas Island Red Crabs – Forest to Coast

Despite their association with the sea, the annual migration of red crabs on Christmas Island is very much a terrestrial affair. Like all of the migrations covered in this feature, this must be an incredible thing to witness. At some point during October and November, approximately 120 million adult red crabs begin an amazing journey from the forests in which they normally reside. Streams of crabs must climb down steep inland cliffs to reach their destination. Having reached the coast, these adult crabs mate and release eggs into the sea. Each female lays approximately 120,000 fertilized eggs. After about a month in the sea, the eggs develop through various larval stages, before eventually forming into tiny crabs. The surviving individuals then move onto land and begin their journey back to the island’s inland forest.

By Alex Prior

Friday
Aug192011

Something Borrowed

As many would agree books not only create an imaginary world for us to escape to, they are also a fundamental tool in education. To end this week’s theme on travel writing we'll explain how Frontier volunteers can help to spread the benefits of reading materials to under-privileged parts of the world.

One way in which poverty can be reduced, or better yet eradicated, is through education. Whilst young people in Britain have a wealth of learning opportunities at their doorstep, impoverished children in underdeveloped countries do not. Frontier is helping pave the way towards solving the lack of learning resources in underdeveloped regions by supporting a new initiative that aims to enhance Tanzania’s education system through book-borrowing.

The scheme will construct a lending library that will store available books for schools to borrow. Frontier will be supporting this scheme by encouraging their volunteers to bring along a book or two to donate to the initiative en-route to their projects in Tanzania. The reading materials collected will then be distributed to different schools across the region with institutions being able to use the books for one term. Once term ends the participating schools will return the copies to the lending library and subsequently receive a different set.

The benefits of this initiative are abundant. Firstly this scheme would provide education institutions with exposure to a wider variety of teaching resources, which they currently lack. Secondly the scheme will ensure that books are being used and not being sold. Students will be given access to a range of reading materials, improving their analytical thinking, and increasing their English vocabulary and writing skills as a result.

Desired books to be donated will include children’s books, teaching resources; text books, and adolescent novels. So if you are planning on volunteering abroad with Frontier, specifically to Tanzania, take some books from your shelf and change a child’s life.

By Nancy Bukasa


Friday
Aug192011

Short Story Contest

Are you a budding young travel writer? Are you in awe of Attenborough, besotted by Bryson, charmed by Chatwin? Do you have a journal ready to fill with wondrous tales from your Frontier adventure? Well we’re giving you the opportunity to not only show off your abilities as a writer but also win some of the books we’ve been talking about all week.

All you have to do is write us a 100 word short story inspired by the image below:

 

Send your entries to info@frontier.ac.uk

We’ll post the winner along with two runners-up on the blog and across our social networks.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Ts&Cs
1.    One entry per person
2.    100 word maximum word count
3.    Competition closes: 19th September 2011
4.    The prize will not be transferable to another person or exchangeable for cash

Monday
Jul182011

How the ‘Gap Year’ has changed

Wednesday
Jun222011

Amazon Conflict Continues

Thursday
Jun162011

New Che diary published

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