Monday, November 26, 2007

Almost Finished

My last semester of college is almost over and in a few weeks I will be a college graduate. I have to say this whole blogging experience was bittersweet. It was actually a lot more work than I thought it would be, and it was really a pain in the ass to remember to put it up every Monday, but I learned a lot.

This is my last blog for the Cat Scan, but now that I have figured out how to put links and pictures in, I think I am going to keep it up.

I am taking off to Italy and traveling for awhile and I plan to use my blog as a diary. I have learned a lot about online journalism and how popular blogs have become in the past few years to the journalism world.

Before taking this class, I really was not extremely concerned about the environment. I think I was like the majority of people who care when it is brought to their attention, but I really never worried about it afterwards. I have been writing and reporting about environmental issues and everything green everyday for a few months and now it's difficult not to think about what I do everyday in relation to the environment.

My blog has forced me to research endless study abroad opportunities that help the environment. Every week I would read about a new program overseas. Thailand,Africa, India, Brazil, all these places I have always wanted to go, and now I know about possible choices that would keep me safe, busy, and environmentally conscious while I am abroad. I think this will make me feel better, but more importantly my parents who are less then thrilled about my future travel plans.

For the record, I think my favorite program was the trip to India, which was organized by the Tucson zoo. I met Susan at the zoo and she told me all about the India trip, and other excursions she had personally taken. I kept thinking, "how do I get this woman's job!"

The next time you here from me I'll be in another country : )

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Never Seen Thailand

Did you ever see that movie "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio? Well that beautiful island is in Thailand and you could be heading that way. Sadly, you won't really be living on that secluded island, but do you remember the part in the beginning of the movie where Leo drinks the snake blood? That was in the bustling city of Bangkok, and that is where you will be spending your time in Thailand.

I found a program through the Volunteer Abroad Web site where you could spend up to 12 weeks in Thailand. The minimum duration would be one to two weeks if you cant take off three months.

During this program you will be participating in programs to develop medicinal plants and you will be working a lot with farmers. You will be working with seed distribution, learning and helping to prevent erosion, and working in the nurseries, basically everything you can do to help local farmers with crop development.

The nurseries that you will be working in are going to produce valuable seeds that will help with reforestation efforts. You will be working with other volunteers and the local village populations.

The Web site explains that this program is not "conventional" because it deals with complete "immersion." You will be working and living with th locals everyday and all day.

"There is no way that you cannot learn about a culture when you dedicate yourself to fitting in with the locals," said 23-year-old Benjamin Streeter, who has studied abroad in two different countries.

The program is looking for any volunteers over the age of 18. You can go with friends or family, and they accept people from all over the world. What I felt was unique about this program, is that when you arrive you tell them what you are interested in working with and they will try to fit you into a group that suits your interests.

The Web site calls it a "life challenging" experience. I think the longer you can stay the better, food and accommodation are taken care of.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Start Off the New Year in Australia

If you were thinking that you wanted to do something different to start your life in year 2008, maybe you should head to Australia!

There is an opportunity to spend two weeks in Queensland, Australia starting a week and a half after New Years Day working with adorable koalas. The current study offered by Global Vision International wants to find out about koalas and how we can keep their habitat healthy so we can keep them around for years to come.

During your stay you will be examining the different species of trees that are most likable to koalas. This is important because researchers need to know what kind of tree species are most important to the koalas' lifestyle.You will be doing a lot of observation at night.

According to the Global Vision International Web site, "very little research exists at present about nocturnal koala behaviors so this is a great opportunity to monitor first-hand these amazing creatures at night."

Along with studying the types of trees Koalas like to lounge in, you also need to find about what Koalas like to eat so we can make sure we keep that stuff around. I'm not going to lie this part is pretty gross because you will be collecting and analyzing the Koalas' droppings to figure out what they are mostly eating.

"I don't think I would have a problem with it," said 24-year-old Kyle Crick. "You're using solar showers with no electricity, I think Koala poo is the least of your worries. Crick has looked into the project while he was searching for camping sites.

The two weeks are going to be a bit rough for those of you who may not be into the outdoors. You will be sleeping in tents and eating by campfire. All the food is provided for you, but it is all vegan food, which means no animal products. The showers are warmed with the sun and electricy will not be readily available to volunteers.

As rough as that sounds, you will be learning about conservation, working closely with Koalas, taking tours, night walks, and the volunteer group is usually only five people. I think that is awesome because it forces you to get really close with you fellow volunteers.

"I think its good because you don't want to scare aways the animals and leave a massive dent," said Crick.

Crick explained that he would want to go but he does not know if he is physically fit enough for this journey.

"Volunteers must be in excellent physical condition. This landscape is extremely steep, and the local climate is rather difficult for first timers to acclimatise to, according to the Web site.

If you are physically fit, or you are planning on getting in shape before you head out, you will arrive the first day and start an intensive training program.

In the training sessions you will be learning about first aid procedures,snake bite treatments, adequate water intake and dehydration signs,collection of rainfall, collection of fecal matter, and training with nocturnal examination equipment.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Give Macaws a Merry Christmas

This expedition will take you down to South America in the Peruvian rainforest. The Macaws native to the area are the animals you will be examining. This is not just any old bird watching excursion with some binoculars, you will not only be hiking through the rainforest with experienced leaders, but also get to take a riverboat down stream.

This opportunity is unique in comparison to other travel abroad conservation programs for two reasons, one being that the trip dates are a few days before Christmas, and the second is that you will be a leader to the tourists rather than just being led by the experts.

I personally think that both of these unique aspects are essential to spread the idea of eco travel opportunities. I feel that there are a great deal of people that may not go home for Christmas, or maybe they wish to use their holiday time doing something different.

The experience is somewhat different when you become the expert leading people on the expedition, it proves how much you are learning and it is always a good resume add.

The dates are December 11 through the 22. December will not be a cold month in Peru, since it's seasons are opposite ours up here in the Northern hemisphere, so that's a plus, you could return with a tan.

The program is offered by Earthwatch, you can find information about other possible excursions on the Web site.

"You will observe scarlet, blue and gold, and red and green macaws at clay licks, and record their daily behavior and reactions to visiting tourists," according to the Web site.

You will be the observer and recorder of the birds' behavior, mostly the nesting rituals. You need to find out what kind of activity occurs within the nest, when the parents are present and when they are not, and what kinds of food are brought to the chicks by the mother.

The nesting rituals are important to preserve the natural Peruvian habitat for the Macaws, and to ensure that the impacts of ecotourism are minimal to the Macaws survival for many years to come.

The research site is called Puerto Maldonado, it is located amongst 50 meter tall trees and in this area hunting is forbidden. There are over 500 species of birds and an abundance of other species/vegetation like monkeys and giant herbs.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Eco Lodges

While on your travels abroad to save the environment, a lot of the programs offer accommodations in the form of ecolodges. What is an ecolodge, and where can you find them?

An ecolodge is defined by three main components, according to a study done by the IFC Environment, the three components are: the conservation of lands in and around the ecolodge, benefits to the local communities, and interpretation to locals as well as visitors.

Ecolodges are becoming more popular as the world of Ecotourism grows. Ecotourism has brought about travelers who are interested in being more responsible when it comes to the environment. They worry about the well-being of the country and the community they visit. As ecotourism grows, the need for more ecolodges grows as well.

Ecolodges are usually located in remote areas, but are still somewhat "luxurious and comfortable,"according to the Info Hub Specialty Travel Web site. The site also offers locations of ecolodges all around the world and the different aspects offered.

For example, I checked out a location in the Greek islands because I stayed in a little hotel there before I had ever discovered the idea of an ecolodge.

The Avdou Villas is a ecolodge in Crete. The villas rest on an organic farm in the Lagada Valley. The grounds are covered with olive trees,tangerines, apricot trees, kiwis, and a vegetable garden.

Guests are offered an apartment- like lodge with an electric kitchen. Some of the activities offered include horseback riding, cave tours, hiking, biking, and sea swims. There is also golf courses and an archaeological site.

The Web site offers information about all different sorts of ecolodges for the responsible traveler in places like India, Russia,Iceland,Tanzania, Mexico, or in the US.

All photos taken on my trip to Greece, island of Mykonos.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Sustainable Energy in Motion"

I recently reported on Native American traditions and the way that those traditions shape a green lifestyle. When I saw that there was an opportunity to learn more about Native American traditions through Green Earth Travel, I figured I should tell you guys about it.

Green Earth Travel is an organization that is dedicated to providing people with travel opportunities that are environmentally friendly and conform to vegetarian/vegan travelers.

Green Earth Travel offers eco-trips,spas,accommodations,fitness,or cruises that wont force you to alter your lifestyle if you are a vegetarian or vegan.

One of the trips they offer,"Sustainable Energy in Motion," is a cycling tour through Oregon. The part that caught my attention is that the riders will spend time with Native Americans in their own communities. You will learn about traditional building techniques and work with salmon restoration.

The riders will stop off in different eco-villages and learn about different aspects of green living. Some of these aspects include, "permaculture, alternative building, appropriate technology and sustainable energy," according to the Web site.

The permaculutre sustainability tour that the cyclists will participate in and learn about includes, "a rainwater catching system, organic gardening, permaculture landscaping, a photovoltaic electric system, a passive solar hot water system, constructed wetlands, composting, fluorescent lighting, and natural building practices (straw bale walls, earthen plaster, passive solar design, and use of recycled and sustainably harvested lumber)," according to the Web site.

You can register for the bike trip online at the Green Earth Travel Web site, the tour can be one to three weeks long, and you bike somewhere between 10 to 70 miles a day.

If you are not the strongest of cyclists, but are interested in the trip, the Web site advises that the coastal ride is less intense of the two bike tours offered.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Organic Farming in Brazil

My friend Jessica De La Ossa and I are going to South America after we graduate in December and we have been looking into some possible volunteer opportunities we could possibly participate in for the time we are there.

I found Casa Do Caminho while I was looking up cheap programs we could give a hand to. This program will pay for your food and lodging in return for your help. This would be perfect for backpackers who are just passing through. You can stay as long as you like if you are helping out each day.

Casa Do Caminho
offers a handful of different volunteer opportunities, but the one that caught my eye was the organic farming program.

You would be working on the farm for about six hours a day. The international volunteers will be teaching you the basics of organic farming. The farm in located on the edge of the Tingau Reserve in Brazil. The surroundings are mostly green mountains.

The goals of this organic farm that you would be contributing to include: healthy, natural, food to the local children, and an education to the surrounding farmers and residents about organic farming and sustainability. The primary focus of the organic farm is to ensure that the farmers and children can continue the farm once volunteers have moved on. The area is impoverished, and a healthy flourished farm will provide fresh food year round.

The program needs volunteers that know about farming and agriculture, but they will take any volunteers with or without farming experience.

The farm could also use farming tools like hoes and plows and help with the water irrigation system.

The organic farm began in February 2007 and the volunteers have already had successful vegetable growth like cucumbers. The members of the program teach volunteers about cultivating the land and planting seeds while not abusing the soil.

The farm uses only organic material to enrich the soil of the land and produce quality, natural food for the locals.

Jessica spent last summer in the less fortunate area of Fortaleza, Brazil and she wants to volunteer this summer to take care of some of the problems she saw during her last stay. Jessica explains that an organic farm would be extremely beneficial to the areas she saw in Brazil.

Jessica explained that there was a definite concern with the sanitation of the foods and she believes an organic farm would be very beneficial to the poor communities.

"People cannot afford to buy organic foods there, they are not always eating the most sanitary things," said Jessica. She thinks that if people were capable of growing their own organic foods it would keep food contamination under control, although she still thinks expenses would be a problem without the help of volunteers. She also thinks that giving these kids something to do other than roam the streets begging for food would help the overall moral of the community and the future of these children.

All pictures credited to Jessica De La Ossa. Taken in Fortaleza, Summer2007.