Ca10(PO4)6(CO3)H2O). This inorganic formula has been one of the most controversial topics in recent history. It is called dentine, which is the main property of ivory. True ivory is only found in the tusks of elephants and mammoths. What does it cost? One hundred elephants are poached every day, and they are now an endangered species. Elephants are not the only animals being poached for ivory. As the elephant population drops, ivory poachers are looking to other animals to line their pockets. Rhinos, hippopotami, walruses, sperm whales, and hornbills are now victims of the ivory trade.
Many nations have already passed laws against the ivory trade, but how do we control the black market? Illegal sales bring in $1,500 per pound, with one pair of tusks having the ability to bring in $375,000. The first international ivory ban took place in 1989 and prices for ivory plummeted. Since then the ban has been a rocky process. In 1999 trade opened up to Japan and over six thousand elephants were poached for their ivory despite the fact there was over fifty tons of ivory tusks stocked around Africa from the ban a decade earlier. The trade with Japan stayed open for one year and then international trade was banned once again. Two years later China and Japan opened customs for ivory trades, and two years after that, tourist trade was allowed.
In 2011, a few African countries started taking matters into their own hands. Kenya and Gabon burned over nine tons of ivory combined. Inspired by this rebellion against the ivory trade, the United States and the Philippines destroyed their ivory stock piles, which then inspired other countries to destroy their stockpiles as well. Major restrictions were implemented on international ivory trade by 182 nations. Many countries in Africa started to destroy their stockpiles of ivory. It was looking positive for the elephant population.
The Eastern worlds doors were still open to the ivory market, and the demand was incredibly high since ivory traders were lacking buyers. How does the black market factor into this? China, in a major step towards protecting elephants, banned ivory trade at the end of 2017. It was found that Chinese businesses were smuggling illegal ivory into the legal market. All of the ivory carving factories and retailers shuttered at the end of the year.
Do all of the laws and bans really make a difference in the black market? Prices for ivory dropped from $2,100 a kilo to $500 a kilo. That’s a quarter of the cost, or in more dramatic terms, a four hundred percent depreciation. The black market has been struggling in recent years due to the strong bans from major countries and education on poaching to the masses. In the last five years there was a seventy percent increase in education in the ivory black market, and of that, ninety five percent supported a ban on sales.
We must continue to educate on the topic of ivory, even as these bans take place and the black market for ivory plummets. Elephants are not the only victims of the ivory trade, now that true ivory is banned by all major markets. Rhinos, hippopotami, walruses, sperm whales, hornbills all need protection as poachers look to them for their horns, beaks and teeth. Future years will hopefully show bans put in place on all ivory trades so that all of these animals may stay protected from extinction.
The timber industry, as with all industries has its ups and downs. We have all read stories on the destruction of forests and the war against using too much paper. We have seen pallet projects where creatives have morphed an object that is normally reused and discarded into beautiful home and garden decor. Whether you rent or own your home, you know a lot of lumber was utilized in the architecture of your home. There’s a major grey area on whether the industry is beneficial for the environment. This grey area is opening up conversations oon where lumber is the best option for the product it’s intended for, or whether there are better options for certain markets. These conversations all point to a general idea which applies to all aspects of life: everything is good in moderation.
The reason that the timber industry has such a major gray area is the fact that it is a renewable resource, which is great, but it takes a long time for a tree to grow. A Douglas fir tree, commonly used for Christmas trees, take fifty years to grow to a size suitable for the lumber industry. Ash, beech and oak trees can take a hundred years to grow to standard. These hardwood trees have commonly been used in the timber industry because of their density, but due to the difference in growth rates, major lumber companies have shifted to begin growing softwoods despite the demand for hardwoods.
Softwoods can grow to industry standards in twenty five years, which means a faster lead time for lumber companies. The decision by the industry to switch to planting softwoods was originally harmful for business. About forty three percent of Dutch lumber forests in 2004 had not been harvested in recent years due to a gap in supply and demand. About two thirds of the demand called for hardwood species, but seventy five percent of the newest generations of trees planted were deciduous.
Massive quantities of trees went unharvested, and affected the ecosystem in the industry forests. The trees were dying in numbers, which in a wild forest could be excellent for the environment as the decay provides food and homes for animals. Industrial forests benefit from the nutrients in the soil caused by the decay, but animals can harm the quality of the lumber they are attempting to sell. Birds commonly form holes in trees for feeding and nesting, for example, and if a bug infestation occurs, the lumber company could say goodbye to a huge amount of profits.
After years of struggling, the market finally caught on to what the timber industry was doing. 2010 brought a huge growth for the timber market, as softwood lumber became the largest growth market. It continued to be the leading product in the market through 2016, and the timber industry boomed. The timber industry will continue to grow, as construction companies continue to book more jobs, and projects can be completed at a faster rate thanks to the shortened lead time with softwoods.
There are about 259 timber wholesale companies in Netherlands alone, the biggest quantity in recent years. The Dutch can continue to be proud of their involvement in the lumber industry. They have had a strong hand in the market since the 1600s when wind powered sawmills were scattered across the country. A popular tourist sight, Het Jonge Schaap is a sawmill in Zaanse Schans, and you can witness wooden boards being cut using old, traditional methods.
Countries have been built upon the success timber industries. Major cities such as Seattle, Bordeaux, Massachusetts, and London grew to be what they are thanks to the lumber industry. The timber industry is a force to be reckoned with. Due to the fact that it’s a renewable resource, it will be around for decades to come. It has adapted through the years, and will continue as demands change, but that is one of the beautiful qualities of the global market.
Do you know which national park was the first established in the United States of America? In 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park, which sparked a movement to protect areas of land for the enjoyment of the people. This movement began with the influence and hard work of several famous politicians, writers, and most surprisingly, photographers. Photographers, to this day, continue to bring awareness to national parks through their craft and social media, and may be the answer to preserving parks through the years to come.
Theodore Roosevelt has received a lot of credit for being the first President to advocate for preserving lands, but it really all started with former President Abraham Lincoln. A few years before former President Ulysses S Grant signed in Yellowstone as the first National Park, Lincoln had put Yosemite under the protection of the state of California during the Civil War in 1864. Lincoln and Grant merely ignited the spark for the movement to protect treasures in nature.
Five new additional parks were created from 1901 - 1909, under Roosevelt. His administration also created eighteen national monuments and over one hundred million acres of national forest. All of this protected land was created with no organization to oversee and manage them, that is until 1916. Stephen Mather, an industrialist, gathered support from schools, newspapers, and other media outlets to gather support for a National Park Service in 1915. A year later, his wish came true as former President Woodrow Wilson signed in the service and he became its first director.
Creatives have always been at the forefront of the movement for preserved lands. Wallace Stegner, a writer, led a group of visionaries in the mid-1800s who believed that the greatest national treasures should belong to everyone, forever. He called it the “best idea we ever had”. Nature journalist John Muir would publish articles in 1890 that described the Sierra Nevadas in such enthusiasm that he became a driving force for the National Park movement. Muir is affectionately known as the Father of National Parks for his efforts in bringing an awareness to these American natural wonders.
Now the question is, who actually convinced Lincoln to protect Yosemite in 1864? The answer is a photographer named Carleton Watkins. Watkins ended up making the voyage to California from the east coast in 1849 for the promise of gold. He never struck it rich, instead becoming a photographer for the mines. Watkins went on nature trips in his free time. Watkins’ camera equipment was definitely a lot more to deal with than today’s DSLRs. He trekked into Yosemite in 1861 with his equipment, weighing a ton, being carried by mules. Watkins’ images of the Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan and more created fame for these sights, catching the attention of Lincoln.
It was Watkins who created change in the United States by doing what he loved best: taking photographs. Since his time, many other famous nature photographers have followed in his footsteps including Ansel Adams, William Henry Jackson, David Muench, and Art Wolfe. The National Park Service, realizing the importance of photography in convincing people to visit the parks and contribute to conservation efforts, utilized color photography on postcards to highlight certain areas of the park along the newly paved roads which appeared in the 1930s. The imagery did the trick. People arrived to the parks in masses, paying to get in to see in person what they had witnessed on a postcard, and the parks saw a great increase in funding.
Photographers of the digital age still enjoy traveling to these parks and nature reserves to capture the beautiful landscapes and monuments. If one were to search images of Yosemite National Park, it would be discovered that over 60,000 images are on Trip Advisor, and do not even try to find the last image on Google Image Search, else you will be scrolling for a very long time. You cannot even calculate how many photographs are circulating around social media of just Yosemite National Park, never mind the rest of the Parks. On Flickr, a photo sharing social media group, there are over one million photographs using the search term “Yosemite” and there are a plethora more when you search other related terms such as “El Capitan”.
Photography has survived as a craft since its initial process in 1717. It became popularized in 1839 when the first permanent image was created. Photography was simplified fifty years later with the invention of the Kodak camera in 1888, making a camera a household item. The digital age has brought photography to everyone’s fingertips with cameras inside phones, computers, and the DSLRs. Since landscapes are always changing and every photographer is unique, new photographs of national parks are being released every day, meaning that the photographers work is never quite complete.
Waterfalls are a natural source of wonder and entertainment. We hike to see them, to cross them, to dive them, to admire them. They are a destination that we seek for a variety of reasons, and we all know of at least one of the five famous falls of the earth: Niagara Falls, found in North America, Angel Falls and Iguazu Falls, both found in South America, Victoria Falls, found in Africa, and lastly, Olo’upena Falls in the Hawaiian Islands. Perhaps you have had the blessing to witness one of these in person, but even if you have not, there’s a good chance that you have seen a more local waterfall near you. Besides their captivating appearance in nature, waterfalls have an important impact on its nearby ecosystem and economy, and they have been shown to improve mental and physical well being in people.
There are so many different perspectives on what counts as a waterfall that there is not an official total of waterfalls found on Earth. In general, a waterfall is a body of water that falls over a ledge and forms a pool at the bottom. A waterfall is also known as a cascade. To give you an idea of how many waterfalls are around the world, there are over four hundred counted in California alone. Why is this observation important? With waterfalls being so prevalent around the planet, even the smallest one has a big impact on the global ecosystem.
Have you ever noticed that waterfalls tend to be the foreground against smoothed out rock? Bodies of water erode soft rock, leaving only hard rock, such as granite in its wake. The rock is eroded by small particles and pebbles, known as sediment, carried at a high velocity.
Waterfalls do more for its surrounding environment than break away rock surfaces. The spray from the falling water hits a zoned area around the drop of the fall and the pool at the bottom. This mist carries minerals from the natural water which helps plant life grow, the most familiar form being moss. Moss does not utilize water like most plants, but rather soaks it in like a sponge. With the constant spray from a waterfall, moss becomes over-absorbed and excess water escapes the spray zone, widening the waterfalls effect on its ecosystem. More plants being able to grow means more nutrients for the soil, which creates a healthy cycle of life.
All of these effects on its local ecosystem creates a fragile environment, which is why a lot of the falls that are tourist attractions have a path built around the spray zone, or have signage expressing to not touch the water or the land surrounding it.
Waterfalls around the globe attract tourists. Angel Falls brings in about 900,000 people a year, and it is very difficult to access. Yosemite National Park in California, which is the home of several famous waterfalls, brings in close to four million people a year. Even Mount Rainier National Park, which does not home any famous waterfalls is marked as one of the top places to view cascades in the state of Washington and creates about thirty three million dollars in revenue for its surrounding communities annually per million of visitors. Last year, Mount Rainier National Park had about two million visitors, meaning it brought in about sixty six million dollars for the Washington economy. That is incredible!
Why do so many people visit waterfalls, big or small? It turns out that studies show we are drawn to them for health benefits. For one, the sound of waterfalls is soothing to us. Many famous sleep-aid devices feature a setting that sounds like running water. Watching the waters course is also a psychological aid in lowering stress levels, and is found to be similar to hypnosis techniques. Let us go back to how waterfalls affect the ecosystem. The mist cleanses and deposits natural minerals in the air, which means cleaner, healthier air to breathe.
The most interesting health benefit of all involves the balance of ions. Our bodies tend to carry more positively charged ions called cations. The earth is full of anions, or negatively charged ions. One of the most important lessons in science is that opposites attract. When we step barefoot onto grass or dirt, the anions in the earth balance out the cations in our bodies. As the ions become balanced, serotonin levels in our brains increase. Serotonin is also known as the dream hormone, and essentially speaking, makes us happier. Moving water, such as cascades, carry an abundance of anions as it travels through the earth, and with the force of the water landing into the pool at the bottom of the fall, a lot of these negative ions are released, causing a spike in serotonin levels.
Waterfalls are crucial to the health of our planet and our bodies. More research is being developed looking into additional health benefits of moving water, and the shape of rock formations will be under constant change as long as there is water to change it. Waterfalls will dry up, new ones will form, but one thing will always remain the same: we will continue to be fascinated by them.
You’re walking down the street, weaving between the sea of people, focused on getting to your destination when the sound of a steel pan interrupts your train of thoughts. You keep walking, listening to the talent of a street musician, reminiscing of when you heard the tuba player in Omaha, the saxophone player in Portland, the conga player in Caracas. Busking, or street performance, is the act of displaying artistic quality through actions in order to earn gratuities. Street performance is highly cultural, especially in the Caribbean islands, it comes with rewards and risks just as with other careers, and is an art that will adapt as technology pushes forward.
The steel pan is a unique instrument associated with Caribbean culture, and it all stemmed from slavery in Trinidad in the late 1700s. According to BBC News, French Planters arrived at this time with their slaves. When the slaves were brought to Trinidad, they lost all form of identity. They were taken away from their homes and culture, and had to start anew. The slaves formed a new culture through celebrations, fueled by drum music. After slaves were freed with the emancipation in 1834, the music got louder as celebrations grew, eventually getting banned by the British government. This ban on traditional drum music drove Trinidanians to invent the steel pan.
This unique instrument, created out of scraps of metal found on the street, came to be an identifying factor of island sound, and the world listened. In 1967, “Carrie Anne” by The Hollies featured a steel pan instrument and the instrument became widely accepted in pop culture. Its exotic sound is easily recognizable, and while a lot of musicians use it in their music today, it originates from an important purpose - giving slaves a cultural identity.
The culture of music in the Caribbean brought together a variety of peoples. Caribbean islands were primarily taken over by the French, Dutch, English, and Spanish. The diverse backgrounds brought forth a style of cuisine, unique dialects of language and more. Through music, these citizens of different backgrounds were able to communicate with each other, and the Caribbean culture was born.
Due to the fact that the steel pan was founded through creative thinking in an impoverished community, street performance utilizing the instrument is also a form of tradition. Imagine the groups of slaves coming together, performing music on scraps of metal trash found around the plantation where they lived. It created a sense of community amongst the enslaved individuals, and because many of these individuals originated from Africa, you’ll find musicians to this day with this ethnic background performing steel pan music on the street in honor of their ancestors.
As mentioned previously, there was a ban on traditional drum music enforced in 1834 by the British government in Trinidad. Buskers still face a plethora of hardships practicing their craft, such as police obstruction, earning income, and gaining the attention of crowds hardwired to their devices. Since buskers play on the street, they are susceptible to noise complaints from neighbors and passersby. Once the police become involved in silencing the music, a busker is forced to stop performing. One can risk relocating and getting called on again, or he or she can call it quits for the day.
Obviously, one can conclude that this interferes with the buskers income. Without the interruption, buskers have a hard enough time getting coins and bills dropped into their cash holds. There is a general rule that few people follow: if you stop and listen to the music, you should pay. Instead, street performers find themselves playing for free to an audience because there is this idea embedded into our heads that they should find a “real” job where they make an hourly wage or salary. Let us think on that for a moment. We all pay for tickets to go see concerts, orchestras, symphonies, operas, the list goes on and on. We pay for entertainment every day, whether that’s for your data plan on your phone, Wifi, streaming, cable, so many other forms of entertainment we use every day. Surely we can afford to drop a dollar into the hat of a busker displaying his or her talents to us in public.
Technology is not an enemy of street artists. Many performers have found success through uploading videos and live feeds of their music and talents to display to the cyber connected world. There is this fear that everything tangible will disappear as digitalization continues to enhance and impede on different areas of our lives. We can also use it to bring attention to the tangible, to enhance the cultures and worlds around us.
Humans have an underlying appreciation for commodities that speak to our souls, including art, music, positive human interactions, animals, subjects which give us answers to our existence, and more. This fundament of human nature and universal culture will never disappear, but will rather adapt. Successful buskers will learn to adapt and use the web to captivate audiences, as well as continuing to perform in the streets, because let’s face it, we all stop to listen to the music.
Photographer, visual artist, mother to four fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.