Art/Culture

A Living Piece of History: An Outdoor Ice Rink in New Zealand

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Sports | 0 comments

A Living Piece of History: An Outdoor Ice Rink in New Zealand

Spread the News:ShareThe remains of an outdoor ice rink near Mount Harper/Mahaanui in New Zealand offer insight into the establishment, use and decline of what may have been the largest outdoor ice rink in the Southern hemisphere. The privately built rink on South Island was a popular social amenity from the 1930s to the 1950s, playing an important role in the development of ice hockey and skating in the country, as detailed in a heritage assessment carried out by Katharine Watson for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC). A combination of interviews, secondary sources and an archaeological survey were used to inform the history of the rink present in the assessment. Mt. Harper ice rink lies in the lee of the mountain (the side that is sheltered from the prevailing wind) that gives it its name, at the foot of the glacier-clad Southern Alps of New Zealand. It was built in the early 1930s by Wyndham Barker, the son of a minor member of the English gentry who lived in Canterbury and learned to ice skate while studying in Europe, as explained in the assessment. The rinks no longer contain any ice and some now contain vegetation, but the bunds (earth mounds) surrounding the ice rinks can still be seen. Many of the original buildings, such as the ticket office, toilet block, skate shed, a hut built to house the Barker’s cow, Sissy, and the Barker’s house are still standing. The rink was first built in the summer of 1931-1932 and was fed by water from a nearby stream. However, its original location was too exposed to the nor’westers (strong north-westerly winds that are characteristic of Canterbury in New Zealand), which rippled the ice. Barker subsequently moved the rink closer to Mt. Harper, building the rink by allowing controlled layers of ice to build up over many nights. The rink’s first major public season took place in the winter of 1934. A hydropower scheme was also installed in 1938 to power lights for skating at night, while allowing water to be sluiced onto the ice if necessary. “The whole landscape is really legible today, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place,” Watson explained to GlacierHub.  “These kinds of sites are very important records of the myriad ways in which human societies have used, interacted with, and taken advantage of seasonal ice over time,” added Rebecca Woods, a professor of the history of technology at the University of Toronto. “An archeological site like Barker’s rink would be a candidate for a cool virtual reality tour along the lines of a New York Times 360° video.” The potential of the site to tell the story of outdoor ice skating and ice hockey in New Zealand has been identified by the DOC. “The designation of the site as an Actively Conserved Historic Place recognizes this and entails a commitment to maintain the key buildings and structures in the expectation that despite being fairly isolated, the difficulty of access may change some time in the future,” shared Lizzy Sutcliffe, a representative from the DOC. The rink was subdivided over its first few years of use, with up to seven rinks existing in the 1940s. One reason for doing this was that the ice was not freezing well. It also allowed one of the rinks to be dedicated to ice hockey, which Barker was passionate about. In fact, he was an important figure in the history of ice hockey in New Zealand, establishing the Erewhorn Cup, an ice hockey tournament that persists to this day. “The main focus of the...

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Photo Friday: Mount Kailash

Posted by on Jan 13, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Mount Kailash

Spread the News:Share Sometimes called “the third pole,” the Tibetan Plateau is a remote and mysterious place with numerous mountains and glaciers. Among the region’s many mountains, the most sacred is Mount Kailash, a holy place for four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The Tibetan people believe that Gang Rinpoche (Kailash’s Tibetan name) is their spiritual home. Worshiping the mountain and its surrounding lakes is an integral part of their culture. Every year, people travel from around the world on challenging pilgrimage treks to the mountain and its holy sites. Many of them carry out circumambulations, walking around the entire mountain. Mount Kailash and surrounding peaks are home to many glaciers, including cirques and hanging glaciers, that feed the rivers and lakes of this sacred area. Four rivers, the Indus, Sutlej, Karnali, and Brahmaputra, source within 50 miles of Mount Kailash. A recent book, “The Way to the Sacred Land,” was jointly published by the Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB) in Yunnan, China and the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal. It discusses the traditional cultures and local species of the Kailash sacred landscape. The book emphasizes the importance of the region for providing herbs and other plants that are important elements in traditional medicine. See images from the book below, along with a bonus image from another source. And you can read more about the traditional culture and its relation to landscape and local species.                     Spread the...

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Nepali Artist Speaks This Week in New York and New Hampshire

Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Featured Posts, Images, News | 0 comments

Nepali Artist Speaks This Week in New York and New Hampshire

Spread the News:ShareThis week provides a rare opportunity to hear the story and view the work of Tenzin Norbu – artist, hereditary lama, and social entrepreneur of Dolpo, Nepal – who divides his time between his mountain community, a studio and gallery in Kathmandu, and traveling around the world to promote his art and the work he does to support his community. He will present at talk at the Trace Foundation at 132 Perry Street in New York at 6:30 p.m. on January 12. He will also be in residence at Dartmouth College from January 17-31, where he will give talks and hold painting demonstrations. Norbu studied traditional painting as well as Buddhism from his father, following a lineage that dates back more than 400 years. He focused particularly on thangka, a kind of painting on cotton, or silk appliqué work, featuring Buddhist deities, scenes and images.  Norbu’s repertoire ranges from traditional imagery to contemporary depictions of daily life, religious practice, and landscapes, including the glaciated peaks of his home region of Dolpo and of Tibet. His paintings were highlighted in the 1998 feature film Himalaya (Caravan), the only Nepali film to have been nominated for an Academy Award. Over the past twenty years, Norbu’s work has exhibited widely, from Kathmandu and New York City, to Aarhus (Denmark), Monaco, Lucerne, Paris, Osaka, Tokyo, and Thimphu (Bhutan). Norbu was a featured artist in Transcending Tibet, an exhibition organized by Trace Foundation, and Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond, held at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. Norbu is the illustrator of five children’s books, including Clear Sky, Red Earth: A Himalayan Story, a project on which he collaborated with Sienna Craig and which has been published in both English and Tibetan. In collaboration with international NGOs and the local community, Norbu helped create the Kula Mountain Primary School, which provides free education to over one hundred children in this remote region. Norbu is also leading the restoration and repair of cultural heritage sites across Dolpo, including murals in the famous Shey Gompa, featured in Mathiessen’s Snow Leopard. The Dolpo region consists of high glaciated peaks, broad meadows, and several valleys which descend from the crest of the Himalayas. It comprises one of the most forbidding environments in which humans live, and yet, the region has supported thriving populations of agriculturalists and pastoralists for at least a millennium. For centuries, the people of Dolpo engaged in trade, bartering across ecological zones across the Himalaya and into Tibet; in this exchange flowed not only utilitarian goods and products but also religious teachings and texts,  medicinal plants, and high-value commodities like precious minerals and animal pelts. In the past two decades, trade in yartsa gunbu (caterpillar fungus, known also as Cordyceps sinensis or Ophiocordyceps sinensis) has dramatically transformed Dolpo’s rural economy. The use of yartsa gunbu in Tibetan and Chinese medicine has a long history, but today it has become a widely-traded and fetishized commodity: with an eight-fold increase in value (from $700 to $5800 per pound) caterpillar fungus has become the mainstay of household economies across the Tibetan Plateau and neighboring highlands like Dolpo. However, the demand for the fungus has been linked to violence and environmental degradation and has generated concerns over resource sustainability. In Dolpo, in particular, the yartsa gunbu harvest has been sharply contested and subject to less regulation than in other Himalayan enclaves, like Nubri in Gorkha District. The impacts of climate change and habitat modification on this high-value  but ultimately  vulnerable natural resource are unknown but sure to disrupt an economy and, arguably, mindset in Dolpo that has become centered...

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Presence and Absence: Mourning a Himalayan King

Posted by on Jan 3, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Experiences, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Presence and Absence: Mourning a Himalayan King

Spread the News:ShareA shortened version of this article was published in the Nepali Times on December 23, 2016.   One Thursday last month, not much before noon, I was walking through a forest steeped in snow, in rural Vermont. Sun came and went between the clouds. It was quiet, spare. Crystalline light reflected off the frozen surface of a nearby pond. The world felt peaceful, filled with grace and presence, even as it was marked by absence: the bareness of birch trees, the pale winter light. I did not know it at the time, but as I was walking, at what was the first hour of Friday December 16, in Kathmandu, Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, the King of Lo, or Upper Mustang, was leaving the shell of his body, his consciousness released. He was 86 years old, and had ruled his kingdom for more than half a century with equanimity. I had the good fortune to have known him, in some small way, for the last twenty years. We shared an affinity for horses and a love of the landscape he called home. It is fair to say that meeting him altered the course of my life. Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista was known by many names. In Nepali, people referred to him as the Mustang Raja, one of four “petty kings” – including local rulers in Bajhang, Salyan, and Jajarkot – who retained regional power even as their territories were incorporated into the emerging nation-state of Nepal in the mid-18th century. These “petty kings” were recognized by Nepali law from 1961 until 2008, when Nepal transitioned from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic. In Tibetan, Bista was called Lo Gyalpo, or the King of Lo, evoking a sense of respect and deference akin to the titles given to kings of neighboring Bhutan and Sikkim. The fact that Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista had been officially stripped of his raja title by the Nepali state did little to affect his importance in the lives of Loba, people from upper Mustang. To them, he was far from “petty” in his influence. To Loba, he was often called Kundun. This Tibetan word means “presence.” It is the same term of address that is often used by Tibetans to refer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This gives one a sense of just how important this person was to the people of Mustang. He helped to define and defend a people, a place, a way of life, and a sense of belonging to the high pastures and valleys, the canyons and plains, the monasteries and villages of this Himalayan enclave. Bista was 25th in a lineage of rulers that dates back to the late 14th century, and the founding of the kingdom by a western Tibetan leader named Amepal. In 1964, when he was in his mid-thirties, Bista assumed the title of Lo Gyalpo after the death of his father. He was his father’s youngest son. Bista married Sidol Palwar, a refined, elegant woman who traveled from Shigatse, Tibet, to Lo as a bride in 1950, before the political upheavals of 1959. They had no living biological children, but the couple adopted their nephew, Jigme Singe Palbar Bista, as son and heir. Over the past half-century, Bista ushered his community through massive political-economic and sociocultural transitions: the stationing in Mustang of Chushi Gangdruk, the Tibetan Resistance Army, from 1961 until 1974; opening Lo to foreign tourists in 1992, after Nepal’s first jan andolan, or People’s Movement, in 1990; the decade-long People’s War (1996-2006) and its attendant impacts on all aspects of life in...

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Photo Friday: Historic Images of Glaciers

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Historic Images of Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareThe National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) advances scientific research on the frozen areas of the Earth, known as the crysophere, and the climate that influences them. Founded in 1976, the center manages a data archive and educates the public about the cryosphere, including the world’s glaciers. Scientists of the NSIDC specialize in collecting data through remote sensing, which is the process of using satellites to observe information. The center was originally formed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to hold archives from NOAA’s programs. Today, the NSIDC is housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where it continues to be the leader of cryospheric data management. The photographs held by the NSIDC date back to the mid-1800s and include images of glaciers in Europe, South America, the Himalayas, Antarctica and elsewhere. As of 2010, the searchable, online collection has over 15,000 photos of glaciers, which serve as important historical records for researchers and scientists studying the impacts of climate change. Take a look at GlacierHub’s compilation of photographs from the database. To view more historic images, visit the NSIDC’s Glacier Photograph Collection.                     Spread the...

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How Arctic and Subarctic Peoples Perceive Climate Change

Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Featured Posts | 0 comments

How Arctic and Subarctic Peoples Perceive Climate Change

Spread the News:ShareIndigenous Arctic and Subarctic communities face social and environmental challenges that could impact their traditional knowledge systems and livelihoods, decreasing their adaptive capacity to climate change. In a paper featured in Ecology and Society, Nicole Herman-Mercer et al. discuss recent research that took place during an interdisciplinary project called Strategic Needs of Water on the Yukon (SNOWY). The project focused on how indigenous communities in the Lower Yukon River Basin and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta regions of Alaska interpret climate change. Global warming has had a significant impact on these regions, with mean annual temperatures increasing 1.7°C over the past 60 years, according to the study. Rising temperatures are predicted to further change water chemistry, alter permafrost distribution, and increase glacier melt. These changes have had a massive impact on the residents living in the Yukon River Basin and their indigenous knowledge, as well as on the basin itself. For example, the basin’s largest glacier, the Llewellyn Glacier, has had a major contribution to increased runoff.  With environments changing at an ever-rapid pace around the world, more studies have begun to focus on indigenous knowledge and climate change vulnerability. Scientists believe it is important to understand indigenous culture because indigenous knowledge informs perceptions of environmental change and impacts how communities interpret and respond to risk. The focus of previous studies in the Arctic and Subarctic had been on older generations in the community, whose observations help shape historical baseline records of weather and climate. These records are frequently missing or incomplete. However, as Herman-Mercer et al. explain, the role of younger generations in indigenous Yukon communities is often overlooked, despite younger people driving community adaptation efforts in response to climate change. Additionally, Kusilvak County, Alaska, where Herman-Mercer et al. focused their study, has a median age of 21.9 years, which makes it the youngest county in the United States. During the project, Herman-Mercer et al. studied four villages with populations under 1,000 people. These villages are home to the native Alaska communities of the Yup’ik and Cup’ik peoples, named for the two main dialects of the Yup’ik language. These indigenous communities are traditionally subsistence-based, with the availability of game and fish, such as moose, salmon, and seals, determining the location of seasonal camps and villages. Herman-Mercer et al. interviewed residents to better understand the communities’ observations of climate change and relationship with the environment. For example, the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people traditionally believe in a reciprocal relationship between humans and the environment, which influences how they view natural disasters and climate change. Rather than seeing these events as naturally occurring, the communities believe that environmental events are punishment for improper human behavior. As a result, the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people have cautionary tales of past famines and poor harvest seasons caused by immoral behavior. These tales also contain information on how to survive hardships using specific codes of conduct. Herman-Mercer et al. relied on three methods to obtain interview participants for the study. First, the researchers had local partners and facilitators recruit members of the communities who were seen as experts. Then a community dinner was held in order to introduce the research team and SNOWY to the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people. Lastly, the researchers used a “snowball” approach in which the team encouraged participants to recommend other people for the study. Nicole Herman-Mercer explained to GlacierHub that all but two of the interviews were conducted in English. For the two remaining interviews, a translator was used. In order to avoid influencing answers, the researchers refrained from using the phrase “climate change” when speaking with the Yup’ik and...

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