As you travel around Thailand on your scooter, one thing that is for certain is that you will see elephants along the roadside. On the edge of town, halfway up a mountain, just outside a temple, elephants, sometimes even baby elephants. But after your brain’s initial excitement (ELEPHANTS!!) the logical side of your mind will catch up to your childlike wonder and you’ll notice a sign advertising elephant rides, how thin and malnourished the animals look, chains or ropes around their ankles, scars indicating phajaan, or breaking the spirit. It’s hard to see and worse to notice the throngs of tourists eager to sit atop these majestic creatures without a care for their well-being. Equally as bad are the number of elephant parks that advertise themselves as “sanctuaries” to capitalise on another type of tourist’s desire for a more ethical experience, when their parks’ methods are no different than the abusive ones in the roadside attractions.
Still, I was hopeful that I could have a genuinely ethical trip to a real elephant sanctuary in Thailand, and so we went to the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. As we went on the weekend of my birthday, Steve treated me to the overnight trip, two days and one night staying at the park, visiting the elephants, walking some of the hundreds of rescue dogs they also care for, and learning about Thailand’s animal tourism industry.
Continue reading “Overnight at Elephant Nature Park: experiences, ethics, and, of course, elephants!”
Let me preface this by saying that I am not by any means a carnivore. I was a vegetarian for many years, although these days I eat fish once or twice a week. I do love eggs and cheese (cheese!!!) but overall I didn’t think it would be difficult to go vegan for a month as part of Veganuary, a January-long challenge to encourage people to try out a plant-based diet for the good of their health, the environment, and animals everywhere.
And it wasn’t—this isn’t going to be a post about how it was actually sooooo difficult to give up milk in my morning coffee (I prefer almond milk anyway) or cheese on my quesadilla (soy cheese isn’t great but it’s not terrible, and there are nicer options out there than what I bought if I’d bothered to go hunting for them). I would encourage anyone who is interested in reducing the number of animal products in their diets to do so; unless you’re one of those folks who thinks a balanced diet means a steak at every meal, I think you’ll find that you don’t miss meat, eggs, or dairy as much as you might think.
Continue reading “It’s Easy Eating Green”
Whenever someone I meet in my travels asks me the best thing about the United States, the National Parks system is always the first thing that immediately comes to mind. There are plenty of places in the world that have incredible national parks, but the National Parks of the USA are special in their breadth and scope. Rock formations and rainforests, caves and canyons, islands and geysers and volcanoes and mountains… there’s something for everyone, representing the most incredible of Mother Nature’s offerings and welcoming over 300 million visitors per year.
Like everyone who love the National Parks system, I am heartbroken to read about the damage being caused to the parks by unsupervised visitors during the government shutdown. Trash overflows the rubbish bins, and let’s not even mention the toilets. Worse, there have been reports of vandals cutting the endangered namesake trees of Joshua Tree National Park in order to create access for their 4WD vehicles. Even during normal operating, there are many instances of graffiti and carved rocks from people who are too inconsiderate to follow Leave No Trace principles, so I can only imagine how much worse it is at the moment.
If you are also devastated by the destruction these thoughtless visitors are doing to some of the world’s most stunning sites, here are some ways you can help:
Continue reading “National Parks During the Shutdown: Three Ways to Help”
Yesterday, a group from the r/Wellington subreddit got together to clean up trash on Petone beach, on the Lower Hutt side of Wellington harbour. We spent an hour and a half (some intrepid redditors spent closer to two hours!) picking up small bits of plastic, cigarette butts, and what might have been a Pepsi bottle full of pee—ew.
I organised the event, which was amazingly simple thanks to the great community in Wellington and particularly r/Wellington. There’s always someone keen to meet up to do anything that someone else is interested in, so all it took was a quick post to the page and 20+ people expressed their interest (we didn’t end up having quite that many people on the day, because life gets in the way, but there was still a group of about 12 of us ready to do our part).
Continue reading “The Gang Cleans the Beach”