Geotagging - My next frontier.
From 1949. Cool. Via WorldChanging
I've been on a map binge, trying to learn how to manipulate Google maps. Geeky. I haven't got much to show for it but I'm making some progress. Talk about learning curve. Had to take on Ning as well.
Ning's winning. Usu Maps
Lots of good resources out there, and a good game.
Using Google Maps with Ning: Ning Developer Documentation (might need a developer login for that)
From the interview:
I don't want to be a big cynic about this, but really, at this point, who WANTS George W Bush to get all interested in climate change? Sooner or later, that guy poisons everything he touches. He'd probably start a highly secretive and utterly disorganized "Department of Greenhouse Security," where Bechtel apparatchiks took over abandoned army bases to install leaky nuclear power plants in dead of night with extraordinarily-rendered, off-the-books, union-busting labor. Would that help? If he fought the Greenhouse in utter sincerity and with all his might, would he win?
From Charles Golden, a link to this report on new problems faced by the villagers around the Chixoy Dam in Guatemala.
From Anne Galloway:
Shot in 2002, edited and sent back full resolution over the internet (7 hours upload) in time for Halloween at the Bowery Poetry Club. From San Cristobal de las Casas to Chamula to Zinacantan and Romerillo.
(requires QuickTime player)
"That wonderful night you climbed up to the moon"
This is a clip of Wilder Oakes, in Port Clyde, Maine, reciting a poem about one of his paintings. I'm putting it here for enjoyment and to make sure I know how to do the code right, so I can send it to him.
Well, it will probably still be slow, but you could leave it overnight.
Cool travel videoblog. Vloggers, get out and see the world!
Jon Lebkowsky's weblog, Weblogsky, just made me aware that Wilma is the strongest hurricane yet. And that it is threatening people and places I hold dear. I've been distracted.
A note from Ron Canter:
FAMSI recently added the entire report from Satterthwaite's groundbreaking Piedras Negras expeditions in the 1930s. It is a gold mine. Satterthwaite summarized the Usu's navigability with 'It is apparently never practicable from a point a little below Porvenir ... to an impassable rapid just above a point called San Jose'. This is exaclty what we found by going down the river and mapping the rapids and determining their difficulty. It is later sources that have gotten fuzzy, probably because they didn't have to move big stela offsite by the easiest route. One of the editors of the PN reports is some fellow named Charles.
That would be one of our other pals, Charles Golden.
IQ lowering...good ideas scattered...must...quit...daay...jooob...Daisy, Daisyyyyy...
The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine. Via Boing Boing, of course. Thanks Cory!
Based on my short test, I'm not surprised by the slowness of the conversions in these tests. But when quality is the concern, I think they are asking too much of a compressed 320X240 video. It's supposed to look good for a $2 video on a small screen. Go to the movies, watch TV or buy a DVD if you want better.
If it looked any better blown up, Apple (and everyone else who will get into the business) would never get the deals with the media producers.
Unusual and important application of biomimicry.
As I've noted before, I worked on the edge of CBS News (I helped start up CBS News Productions, !994-95), and there was a sense then that their world was coming apart. At the time it seemed more a technological problem, at least from my angle. But now the sense of authority and balance has slipped away.
Mitch Ratcliffe offers more thoughtful commentary and a critique of the critique of Wikipedia.
Automating the steps to create an iPod -ready video.
Se also my earlier post on the subject.
Food for the critics.
This is a freeware solution, but see the notes below.
And see this tutorial, useful for more than the title implies.
UPDATE: Since many people are hitting this post, and someone has commented that it doesn't work, I'll add links to my other posts (other methods) for creating iPod video. The most reliable way is to use Quicktime 7 Pro but as commenter Ryan has noted, it is slow. And it costs $29.95 - but it's worth it in my opinion.
I've just read that the new version of iTunes (6.0.2) has a dropdown to menu option to convert a video already in iTunes to iPod format:
Someday I'll go totally geek and I'll need this. Plus Brainstorms and Raves is just a great site.
Via Wi-Fi Networking News. Thanks Glenn!
Google Maps lead engineer Lars Rasmussen discusses Maps and future desktop appications.
This short report links deforestation, excessive grazing lands, flooding from Hurricane Stan, and silting of hydroelectric plants.
Go ahead - locate a few of your favorites.
NOTE: To help, visit Pueblo a Pueblo.
From Kenneth Wood, who is coordinating relief to mudslide victims in Guatemala, an update from Santiago Atitlán:
This is an email report from Surunda Velasquez. Surunda singlehandedly has changed the lives of the community, creating hundreds of jobs for the T’zutujil people and an outlet for their creativity. She is the person who originally brought beadwork to Santiago.
It is a week since the disaster. The amount of work going on with the relief efforts has been as relentless as the Hurricane a week ago was with the rain. It did rain, or should I say, pour constantly for a week.
By now, the aid has arrived from the outside. There were the first and second days when Santiago was on its own, and people were going out to bring in the dead in seemingly countless coffins of mostly kids, as the coffins were small with every now and then a long one that were the adults. The town square was packed . By then, we had set up a soup kitchen to cook for the bomberos and all the able young men with hoes who were bringing in the bodies. And as we were working in Argentina Sojuel’s classroom on the square, we became a witness. It is part of tradition to witness the death and give dignity to the dead to identify it and put it to rest in the cemetery. And now several days later the land in Panabaj is called a “campo santo” an official cemetery as the people after digging for 6 days, are tired and the danger is high health wise to be out digging in the mud.
The first 2 days it was considerably dangerous to be digging in Panabaj because of the continued rain. The town of Panabaj is now off limits and condemned so there can be no return of the survivors.
The next days were filled with receiving the help of the neighboring towns. The solidarity of the people here is high and the outpouring of corn and food and people to help dig in the mud was overwhelming to see and experience. To be on the receiving end of this gives all of us feel quite human and extremely grateful. In the market, people gave or sold for a good price. The vegetables for the soup pot were cooking in the soup kitchen. The feeling of solidarity has been and still is very high.
The aid from the outside was jubilantly received. By then the survivors were told to register at the shelters called Albuergues. And most people have settled or registered in the shelters. It was determined that if one was not registered in these shelters one was not going to be eligible for aid. But as with all such plans, people do fall thru the cracks. There are so many families that took in extended families that survived the mud flow (there were technically 3 mud flows, one on either side of the town). Some households are housing as many as 50 people under one roof. There is a large task underway to locate and do a census of all these people that are desperate with hunger and have not received aid as of yet from the authorities. What aid that exists is still at the stage of being not quite enough. The clothing, for example are mostly clothing donated from the city population and from the outside in the first world. I, myself, have sorted the clothing that came my way and have a stack of clothing much to big to be of use for the small mayan physiques. There is also a standard of choice among the people here and the women need huipiles and cortes, not western pants, blouses, t-shirts and jeans. The men here just won’t fit in the bigger sizes of clothes that have come in, not to mention all the smaller sizes of all the children and babies. And people need bedding. Hopefully, there will be enough to go around, but most of the neighbors know where the truly desperate people are and their goodwill makes it possible to find these marginalized families.
The Red Cross wants to help us. They are bringing in supplies to continue a soup kitchen as well as distribute food. For everyone here tortillas are the one basic food. 2 pounds per adult a day is the average consumption. Of course, ideally, there are beans and other proteins as well. When you have 23 people in your household that works out to 46 pounds of corn a day alone. Unfortunately, the corn that was still out in the fields and close to harvest was destroyed by the storm all over the country. A lot of the people in Panabaj had just harvested their half years supply of corn and ended up having to abandon it in the mud.
They say on the internet that 75%of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. The roads are slowly getting cleared but there are a lot of bridges to cross that have been rebuilt hastily. We are still in rainy season, but that is much less rainfall than when a category 1 hurricane comes thru like last week.
The hospitalito Atitlan, which reopened after 15 years of abandonment in April of this year and was progressing with a new operating theater, a new kitchen and medical storage building (which being on the mud flow side of the property actually served to save the hospital building), was halfway buried in mud. The mud did come in but it only filled part of the hall and the reception room. The 2 story stone house across the road was not so lucky and there is just no sign it ever existed but in one’s memory. As of today, the decision to move the hospital has been made and there is movement of looking at serviceable place to rent in town. To look for a building that has 6 –7 rooms preferably on one floor is next to impossible and to have car accessibility a dream. The choices are few but something will get arranged.
Every day something is happening. One cannot help but be involved with the relief efforts. Today at Adisa – Amigos and padres of Descapacitados in Santiago Atilan, we combined the 3 groups of my beadshop where there are 12 families that are affected and the weaving cooperative Cajolya and Adisa to receive and distribute aid to the affected in all 3 groups that came in today. People from Quetzaltenango , Guatemala City and Antigua brought packages of corn, beans, noodle soup mixes, milk powder, soap, aqua pura and toilet paper.
From the third day or so there has been a campaign to be using chlorine to purify the water and to wash hands before eating. The threat of hepatitis is high. Cholera can be around the corner if things get out of hand, hygiene wise. There is a campaign for everyone to take their tetanus shot. There are teams of doctors and nurses from the US and Cuba and Spain. Hopefully some water filtration systems will come so drinking water will not be a problem.
As the day ends, we are tired but do feel a bit more optimistic that some aid is helping people get thru this emergency tonight.
Written by Surunda Velasquez October 12, 2005
Since I worked at CBS during Rather's peak as an anchor, and when many there were still Murrow acolytes, I enjoyed this defense of Murrow as a journalist and fallible human, by Mitch Ratcliffe.
Copyright and Digital Media in a Post-Napster World
It includes a section on the "K-12 Initiative" that considers digital copies of educational materials for schools.
Yesterday, before I saw this, I went through the same steps - as far as I could go without a new iPod. The conversion from a full-size DV file was slow (on new 12" PowerBook), but the resulting movie was sharp and a fairly small file size. I can see that if you were to convert a significant amount of video, you would need a fast G5.
On the new iPod there is a voice recording setting that allows CD quality stereo recording. On the older ones, you are limited to low quality mono.
From Santiago, and the Hospital in Panabaj that has been coordinating aid to the mudslide survivors:
Dear Friends of Santiago,
Here are updates on things in Santiago - emails from Dr. Bernie and Dr. Jack.
Email from Dr. Bernie-
The town at times seems back to normal. There is a tortuous path open from Guatemala City. Jack should arrive tomorrow with Jamie and Avantika. Eggs arrived today! No water or gas yet, though,
From the emails I am getting, it seems that I have written as if you all know the town. Sorry for leaving out some of the explanation. Santiago is a town that probably has 40,000 Tzutujil Maya living in it. Maybe 5000 Ladinos (from Spanish descent) and 100 expatriates, mostly from the US.
The hospitalito is on one edge of town, in the neighborhood called “Panabaj”. Panabaj was partly wiped out by the mudslide. There was some damage from flooding and mudslides in other parts of town, but almost all the dead and missing are from Panabaj. Part of the mudslide ended at the hospital. The hospital was very sturdily made of stone in the 60s (I have seen a picture taken by Father Stanley Rother (later killed by the army) of the stone mason breaking the first rock to build the hospital. It is this stone mason’s son who guided me into the center of town the day of the mudslide). The front of the hospital is buried 8 feet deep in mud. But the mud quit flowing exactly at the hospital. The reception room doors were broken in and mud filled the room 4 feet deep near the door. But by the time the mud reached the hallway, it is only ankle deep, and only filled a small part of the corridor. All the rest of the rooms were just flooded a couple of inches deep with water. It does not look like there is much damage to the interior or to most of our equipment. You can walk out the back door onto green grass and empty clothes lines. I think there should be pictures by now on puebloapueblo.org.
The Centro de Salud, Health Center, or sometimes I call it the Health Department, is right in the middle of town, a 15 minute walk from the hospital. The hospital staff is currently working out of the Centro de Salud.
Today I wasn’t on duty so I mainly caught upon emails. It took me hours and hours and hours. Although I usually love to hear from everyone, I would request that you please not send me emails right now for a couple of weeks. We have met some with the Red Cross. They are really being a wonderful help for Santiago. They have set up chlorinated water stations in all the shelters already and brought in cartons and cartons of medicines. More should be arriving tomorrow (and Jack too!). We have high hopes that they will be able to get us enough to get us through a couple of months.
My current assessment of our needs is:
1) potable water. I think this is covered.
2) A reserve water tank for the Centro de Salud. We were without water today again. That means, unable to flush toilets or wash hands or instruments or wounds etc etc.
3) Food (hopefully covered)
4) Bathrooms With 5000 living in a few churches, the facilities are woefully inadequate. The Red Cross said they would work on it.
5) Showers and facilities to wash and dry clothes.
6) Garbage disposal. Our city dump is beyond the landslide and unreachable. Currently the only garbage pick up is from the shelters. That is being taken a way down the road toward Cerro de Oro and dumped.
7) Mental health Two people have been sent by the government for I am not sure how long.
8) Vaccines Hepatits A is endemic here and most of the adults have had it. But probably the under 5s should all get Hepatitis A vaccines. Did I already write a description of how we treat a case of hepatitis A here? Tell the small child and his Mom that he needs to wash his hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. Smile and send them back to live with the 400 other people in a church building.
9) Gasoline for the cares and boats. The gas company is asking for higher prices than normal to come here.
10) Propane for the stoves
11) Health promoters to talk about washing hands, clean water etc.
12) Houses for 5000 people
13) An answer about the hospitalito. Is it part of the area that is designated a cemetery and unusable? Or can we start to make a plan to reopen it where it is? Or to move to another building?
This morning, I walked down to the lake in front of my house. It has obviously risen amazingly. Usually a tranquil beautiful spot, today there was a black plastic bag filled with ? floating by my feet, and a disposable diaper with a small brown branch floating on top of it. (interesting since almost every baby here is in cloth diapers or rag diapers.
Then I walked out my gate and ran into Ian, who put in the water system at the hospital. He said he took a friend for a sail yesterday, planning to look at Panabaj from the lake but never made it. They found a little boy’s body was floating in the lake. They called and then waited till the bomberos could pick it up. I am told it is normal for bodies to start to float from the gas forming bacteria a few days after they have died. The lake doesn’t seem to lead to tranquility right now.
People keep worrying about how I am doing. Curiously well, I think. In fact, I wonder how I can feel so normal with all the loss. I think it is because we are actually treating few seriously ill or injured people. (This is a people whose women are 90% still wearing the woven embroidered dress they did in the 1500s. They do not go to the doctor, but like home remedies. They accept sickness and death as normal and often do not believe that doctors can change the outcome. So there are undoubtedly lots of people in houses who are ill or injured that we have not seen.) And of the people that I do see, many only speak Tzutujil, so I do not get the full story of what happened to them. And none of the people at the hospitalito, who are the people that I know well, lost family. So I am pretty insulated from all the pain. I did get tears in my eyes tonight when my two year old granddaughter was on the phone and started singing “sing, sing a song……..sing of happy, not sad, sing of good times, not bad…”
7AM tomorrow I will be sitting on a cholera chair and hear the future of the hospitalito.
Bernie Page, M.D.
Email from Dr. Jack, Bernie’s husband
It is Wednesday morning, one week after the mudslide that caused so much death and sadness. It is 11 AM and the sun is burning through the absent protection of hair on the top of my bald head. After being stranded in Guatemala City for 6 days, I finally made it back to Santiago yesterday.
We left the capital at 6 AM in a rented four wheel drive pick up truck. Like every other day, we collected information from the police, the army, our friends in Santiago and professional drivers on which roads where open. As always, we got lots of conflicting information. But we took a shot at an all road route to Santiago avoiding a difficult transfer of our bags and medical supplies from the pick up, to boat, to pick-up. It was not to be. First one road, then another, was blocked by new slides. The ground is so wet, and at least every afternoon, it continues to rain and new slides occurs. Since the people are aware of the problems, few lives are lost or injuries occur, but it further impedes the recovery process. So we were directed to Solola, on to San Gorge and then to the shores of the lake via a one way, total mud ¨road¨ where small boats were grounding themselves onto the shore and when filled taking off for all points on the Lake. My group consisted of a fourth year medical student from the University of Pennsylvania, a new one year volunteer nurse from the US and myself. We shared the boat with a Spanish pastor and his wife working to provide food and medical supplies around the lake and a US psychologist who had been volunteering elsewhere in Guate when the disaster hit. Emotional support and a safe water supply are probably more important than one more US trained medical doctor.
When we got to Santiago we were met by my smiling and very tired wife, Bernadette, Kathy Roach, our volunteer director on nurses and other US volunteers looking to help out any way possible. After dropping off our supplies at our house, the new nurse and I needed to go to the hospital to see first hand what had happened.
The mudslide came out of the night, sounding like a large truck driving by, with feeling the sound more than hearing it. It was 4 AM, still dark outside. People had been arriving for hours at the hospital looking for safety from the pouring rains and rising water levels so the waiting room was full. Suddenly the noise, the vibration and the front doors where smashed open and mud began to pour into the waiting room. Into the corridor, some screaming, some onto their knees praying in Spanish, Tzu´juhil. Almost as fast as the terror spread, the noise stopped. Cautious looks outside the other windows, then doors, revealed mud six feet deep on one corner, no mud on another. The slide had stopped for us at the hospital. Not so for our neighbors in there mud floor, cornstalk walled homes. They were swept away. In fact, the old doctor´s house, built with the initial hospital in the 60´s, was also swept away. Now only a sea of slowly drying mud, tree limbs and garbage. No houses, no dogs, no children; quiet, an occasional bird, but far too quiet. The nurse and I both had tears in our eyes and a sudden inability to talk.
We heard last night that the government is deciding whether to let people reoccupy those buildings left standing and our hospital. Probably we will not be so allowed. There is a strong desire to not search further for the 100´s missing for fear of exposing more of the living to infectious diseases. Totally unthought of by me, there is not guarantee that another slide might not occur now or in the near future. It will continue to rain but hopefully not anywhere near the force of Stan. So tonight I will work my first shift in the Centro de Salud. A good and very simple facility that is usually only open Monday through Fridays, day time only. One of the signs of progress in this town of 45,000 is that there was no thought of not continuing with the access to emergency care for this town that had been without for the last 15 years.
Yesterday the Centro de Salud ran out of tetanus immunizations for the people. Today, in a joint operation by Dr. Gil Mobley from Missouri, American Airlines, the US Army, the US ·Embassy in Guatemala City and Guatemalan authorities we now have tetanus vaccine and hundreds are standing in the hot noon-time sun, patiently waiting their turn. We will also be administering hepatitis A to children under five as soon as we can get back in out mudded hospital and get some needles and syringes! This also brought tears to my eyes to see so many people, working together across international boundaries and languages to bring something so basic but so needed to prevent further damage from the one same disaster.
Part of the reason the top of my head is so sore is the walking around town I did with our Board today seeking other temporary locations for our hospital. We found at least two possible sites. Each is too small, too limited, but better than our shared space at the Centro de Salud and far better than going without. Whether we are allowed to rebuild or not, it will be at least months before we are back in a real hospital.
Time for a nap before I report to work tonight. Love and thanks to all who have provided us so much support. You are the light in the night!
Pueblo a Pueblo Inc.
P.O. Box 11486
Washington, DC 20008
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
I lived to see the video iPod.
Key to fast bittorrent downloads, among other things. If I can get my brain around it.
From Princeton University. As they describe it "A collection of public affairs lectures, panels and events from academic institutions all over the world -- for you to view, listen to, stream or download."
Time to update the wikipedia entry.
With new efforts underway to create a binational forum (Mexico - Guatemala) to protect the Usumacinta watershed, Christopher Shaw has written an open letter to those currently in discussions. It also provides an introduction to the history and the issues, as well as our efforts over the last 10 years to study and document the river.
Please contact me for more information. dave.pentecost [at] gmail.com
Click MORE below to see the complete letter.
AN OPEN LETTER ON THE USUMACINTA RIVER WATERSHED
Frans and Trudi Blom first brought the idea of conservation to the watershed
in the 1950s by proposing a section of the Selva Lacandona be reserved for
the Lacandon Maya. Their idea was as much the preservation of culture as of
habitat, and this principle- that indigenous integrity and habitat are
inextricably linked in the watershed- should help guide any future
conservation planning. Conservationists working in the region like Nacho
March, Ron Nigh, Fernando Ochoa, Roan Balas McNab and others have all
acknowledged and upheld the principle in their work.
The first large hydro project on the Usumacinta was proposed in the 1980s,
and would have stretched all the way up the Pasion and Lacantun tributaries,
flooding Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan, among other known and unknown Maya
sites. At that time, the Guatemalan shore was held by rebels, whose presence
discouraged illegal logging, poaching, and looting. It also discouraged dam
engineers. In 1985 Jefferey Wilkerson's groundbreaking article in National
Geographic brought the river and its glories to widespread public
consciousness for the first time. Additionally the Guatemalan journalist
Victor Perera wrote about the river in The Nation and in his books The Last
Lords of Palenque and Unfinished Conquest, and Jan de Vos chronicled the
region in his magisterial series of histories. Ultimately the hydro project
failed under the weight of its own disincentives: siltation, geology,
seismic activity, distance from markets, politics, etc., but the outcry from
conservationists, archeologists, writers, and the public helped. It also
established a pattern.
A thriving seasonal business in wilderness tourism began after the Wilkerson
article. The river and its environs became a favorite destination of river
travelers, amateur Mayanists and archaeologists, birders and wildlife
Carlos Salinas proposed a smaller but still monumental hydro project in
1990, and completed the periferico surrounding the Montes Azules reserve.
Articles in the New York Times, and op-ed pieces by Homero Aridjis
suggesting a binational reserve for the area, helped defeat this incarnation
of the idea.
In the late nineties a consortium of scientists, and government and
non-governmental organizations met in San Cristobal de las Casas, under the
auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Florida,
to identify the extent and types of habitat remaining the region, and to
draw maps of the watershed. The conference addressed many of the
jurisdictional and administrative questions that still bedevil the idea. A
link to the conference report:
The Zapatista Rebellion in 1994 and '95, and the Guatemalan peace accords in
1996, reshaped the political lines in the watershed. As a direct
consequence, and with the dramatic fall of the peso, bandits began robbing
raft trips, ending wilderness travel in the corridor. One of the most
promising tourist activities, with the least potential impact and the most
possibility for helping conservation, archaeology, and cultural
preservation, ended. Illegal activity of all types took over the corridor.
The Mexican army, which pervaded the Zapatista region, had little effect on
river crime, may have abetted it. In Guatemala, the absence of the expelled
CPR communities, which had helped keep the selva safe and secure, now left
it open to invasion, illegal logging, smuggling of immigrants, arms,
artifacts, and drugs. (Many members of those communities now work as
Defensores, but their numbers are few, and they are poorly paid.) The region
continued in a state of low-grade terror and occupation for ten years.
In 2001, a consortium of NGOs and regional environmental groups (many of
whom had participated in the 1990 conference) met in Belize to discuss the
future of the Maya Forest, and to turn over the planning and implementation
of programs from Washington-based organizations to regionally-based ones. I
was present at that meeting and read from my book Sacred Monkey River. Among
the conference's recommendations was a system of wilderness trails, rustic
back-country posadas, an emphasis on non-motorized travel in back-country
areas; residencies and scholarships for artists, scientists, and scholars;
and principles of sustainable forest use for new communities in the
In 2002, When the Mexican government under Fox proposed, under its Plan
Pueblo Panama, the latest mega-dam at Boca Del Cerro, (and its subsequent
smaller incarnations) Dave Pentecost and I started Rios Mayas. We circulated
a letter to President Fox explaining why previous dams had been abandoned,
why it remained impossible to build them without destroying an unknown
wealth of knowledge, habitat, and living culture. The letter demanded the
conduct of environmental impact studies, the development of alternate energy
sources for the watershed, and permanent binational protections for the
river. Our letter attracted the assistance of Homero Aridjis, and the
signatures of more than 200 scientists, artists, writers, and citizens from
Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, Europe and Canada. In November of 2002
Pentecost and I met at Montes Azules with reporters from the New York Times
and National Public Radio, and conducted a press conference at Mexico City.
Our effort was covered in numerous papers in Mexico, Guatemala, and the
U.S., and the text of the letter appeared in its entirety in Progreso. We
make no claims to our effectiveness, but soon after our letter appeared,
reports of reduced dam heights and alternate designs began filtering out of
the CFE, and within a year we learned that the project had been shelved.
None of our demands have been addressed at this time, however, and as long
as the river is unprotected it remains vulnerable. The corridor itself is
unstable and crime ridden. Despite a few safe descents in recent years, no
secure wilderness recreation can be conducted, nor can many kinds of
scientific research. In 2004 narco-traffickers at Piedras Negras blocked a
WCS jaguar study in the PNSL, and in 2003 a Rios Mayas mapping expedition
was robbed, even though members of the expedition, including Rios Mayas
co-founder Dave Pentecost, Ron Canter, and Tammy Ridenour, of Guatemala
City, managed to complete the trip and make new discoveries.
And, in fact, numerous discoveries have been made in the years since the
Boca del Cerro threat. Stephen Houston and Hector Escobedo's important dig at Piedras Negras was completed. Charles Golden's mapping and exploration of newly discovered and overlooked Maya sites in the Sierra del Lacandon continues to break new ground. Ron Canter's discovery and paper on navigational bollards on the river has been completed. A new catfish species, Lacantunia enigmatica, has been described. What these discoveries and ongoing research-carried out with
little financial support and under restricted conditions-- demonstrate is that the corridor itself and adjacent remote areas of the watershed remain incompletely explored and almost completely unknown.
I don't need to underscore to you the irreplaceable magnitude of knowledge,
life, and indigenous wisdom that would be lost if such a treasure were to be
flooded or developed in a thoughtless and destructive manner. Pressures for
energy, agriculture, and development will only increase. That is why your
work is so important and why the Usumacinta must be protected-in some
achievable and practical fashion-in perpetuity. The time to do it is now.
The knowledge exists. The groundwork has been laid. All that's required is
the political will, the money, and an encompassing vision and philosophy to
carry it out.
The watershed now has a twenty year history of thought and planning. I have
prepared a list of basic principles, based on our Fox letter, the
discussions at previous conferences, and the model of protected areas in
other parts of the world, that we hope will help guide any long term
programs. We hope they would be considered non-technocratically, and based
on common sense principles and compassion:
-No new roads in the corridor or contiguous protected areas. Sections of
some existing roads may be closed.
-No new cross-current structures: bridges, dams, power lines, etc.
-The cooperation of local indigenous officials in the planning, design, and
implementation of a corridor plan. Models exist at Uaxactun, Peten, and
Emiliano Zapata, Chiapas, among other places in both nations. Both are
imperfect, as any model must be in such a volatile area. But both have been
in existence for long enough that the record of their failures as well as
their successes would be instructive.
-The 2001 Belize meeting found broad support for a system of scholarships,
residencies, and fellowships for scholars, artists, and scientists visiting
the area. Such a system would, for little cost, produce a steady stream of
scholarly and popular articles, art, films, journalism, and new discoveries.
Residents would come from the Maya area itself, and from other parts of the
-Within the corridor a loose but binding system of protocols for land-use
would regulate agriculture in favor of organic and intensive techniques,
forestry for sustainable yields, the harvest of wild plant and animal
species for sustainability, and construction for minimum short and long-term
-The establishment of a cadre of guards, maintenance workers, rangers, and
guides, all drawn from local populations that would be trained and paid a
reasonable middle-class wage, with regular hikes and benefits, sufficient to
discourage corruption. Rangers and guards would receive extensive education
and training in languages, education, ecology, etc
-A system of fees for day, week and longer uses, with requirements for
equipment, visas, and camping standards that would be imposed collectively
and shared equally among the incorporated communities within the corridor.
These would be paid by users at official entry points like Bethel, Corozal,
Tenosique, etc.. It would be affordable, but enough to substantially
enhance-and in fact support-local communities. Local populations would come
and go without interference.
-Local business grants for legal river transport, rustic posadas etc. (under
the canopy), and other commercial concessions.
-Ongoing studies in water quality, aquatic and wildlife biology, and other
disciplines. While we applaud the WMF concept of preserving the "cultural
landscape," we missed any mention in your email of the river itself, which
is the richest resource of all Chiapas and Guatemala. Our firm and
non-negotiable position is that whatever can be done to maintain and improve
water quality must be done. This includes habitat protection at higher
altitudes, sewage treatment or abatement, standards for logging and grazing
-A system of back-country posadas, campgrounds, and designated camping areas
served by the river, maintained and patrolled foot and mule trails, and a
minimum number of existing airstrips.
-A system of zones designated residential, agricultural, archaeological,
multiple use, and core habitat. Core areas would include the current Parque
National Sierra del Lacandon, Sierra Cojolite, the San Jose Canyon, and
existing biological corridors, etc.
-Considerations for other value-added economic activity.
-A binational commission to oversee proposed development, businesses, and
wilderness use in the corridor.
All these principles have been tested and implemented in similar areas
around the world where humans and nature coexist in harmony, such as the
Adirondack Park of northern New York State, Lake Baikal, in Siberia, and
smaller and more compact protected areas. The Usumacinta, because of its
history, the importance of its singular archeological, cultural and
ecological heritage and resources-and especially the distinct self-contained
geography that sets it apart-make it a natural for such planning. Let me
emphasize again that examples exist with long-term records of success. Their
experience is that such programs enhance broad-based economic activity.
Undoubtedly other NGOs and government agencies will object to these points
on various grounds, many of them legitimate, driven by their specialized
interests. We offer general principles only, but stand ready to make more
specific suggestions at the appropriate time. However, as generalists with
deep and wide experience in the region and elsewhere, we do hope you will
see the wisdom of this approach to beginning the process.
We also hope you may resist the inevitable appeals to abandon ambition in
favor of the "possible." To make something that will work, that will last,
that will matter, will require not only stable economies, peaceful
democratic succession, and cooperation among existing and often mutually
hostile agencies and NGOs, it will require faith, courage, and an
overarching vision not driven by parochial concerns. Fortunately for such a
goal, many pieces of the larger system are in place already, at least
nominally, and many local communities have already begun to think in terms
of the long run.
October 10, 2005
Again thanks to Xeni, I found this roundup of bloggers writing about the after-effects of hurricane Stan.
Thanks for your interest. If you have questions, or would like to tour the Maya region, write me at dave.pentecost [at] gmail.com
The mudslides are becoming mass graves, as rescuers begin to give up. Thousands are left homeless and there is a continuing need for medical supplies.
Hats off again to Sam Churchill for an incredible collection of great links and info.
The recent hurricane in Central America created floods and mudslides which left hundreds dead, thousands homeless. The death toll was just revised upward, with 1,400 dead in the village of Panabaj alone.
Here is a sobering dispatch from Hospitalito Atitlan in Guatemala. Please help if you can.
Does anybody know what Maya site this came from?
UPDATE: No one knows. It's apparently a looted pot with no clear provenience. Says Charles Golden: "It's 'Codex Style' meaning only that it comes from the northern Peten, Calakmul/Nakbe region."
Here is the page in the Kerr Mayavase Database:
A beautiful mystery.
Only a few days late, here are some links to the Site Q story, a mystery that seems to have been solved.
Thanks to Ron Marans for this breaking news.
Via Andy Carvin, links to info on small local wireless bulletin board systems.
A podcast of Nicholas Negroponte's speech on the $100 laptop that he's been developing to bridge the digital divide.
From Ron Canter, a great backgrounder on the Maya city of Yaxha, site of the current Survivor Maya show. As you'll see, the real story beats the reality series for drama. The Maya weren't just playing summer camp in the woods. They created a civilization.
At the end of Ron's article are book references and links to other information. (click MORE for the complete report)
YAXHA – THE BACKSTORY
OF THE ‘SURVIVOR-GUATEMALA’ LOCALE
Yaxha is a survivor - not the ancient city or the show, but the name itself. The place has been “Yax-ha” since before the days of Julius Caesar. It is pronounced yash-ha' and means “Green Lake”. If the lake water were not so green, it might mean “Blue Lake”. To the Maya, blue was just a shade of green, not an entirely different color. This is simple, but a lifetime thinking otherwise makes it hard for me to get it straight in my head.
When Cortez marched through northern Guatemala in 1525, looking for golden cities, there was still a living Maya city at Lake Yaxha – not the giant whose crumbled pyramids form a backdrop for the reality-TV show Survivor-Guatemala, but a more modest one. The ruins of that city still grace the islands of Topoxte and Cante with temples and tightly packed house foundations. All the Postclassic (AD 909 to 1697) towns that Cortez saw in the Peten region were fortified, either by location or walls. Most were tucked onto islands or peninsulas, and those not so fortunate were defended by wooden walls. It was not a peaceful period in Maya history.
At Tayasal, another island city 33 miles west of Topoxte, Cortez was steered southward by advice from its ruler, the Canek. He explained to the Spaniard "that by going on some three leagues I would reach a place where the lake gave way to dry land, and to reach the coast I could follow the road which led from directly opposite his town" instead of "a hard one over steep and rocky mountains". The Canek was urging Cortez to take the easy route east. To bring along his warhorses, Cortez chose the steep and rocky one south to Nito. Except for one, all his horses died on the march anyway. The exception was Morcillo, a sick horse left in the care of the Canek. Eventually Morcillo ended up stuffed, mounted, and worshipped.
The road to the coast, later named “The Chicle Trail”, led straight to Topoxte and then east to the Belize River, so Cortez just missed visiting Lake Yaxha. European missionaries passed through Yaxha following the same road west from the coast to Tayasal. They harangued the Itza Maya of Tayasal (the present-day city of Flores), threw idols in the lake, and eventually wore out their welcome. The Canek took their guides aside and told them “Don’t bring those xolopes back here”. “Xolope” doesn’t translate literally too well, but ‘bonehead” comes close. A few years later they were back and this time they ended up as martyrs or as offerings, depending on your point of view.
Human sacrifice is one of those topics that always surfaces sooner or later in connection with Central American civilizations. The Maya were not an exception, but they were not so bloodthirsty as the later Azteca. On Survivor-Guatemala, the evening “Tribal Council” is held in the North Acropolis, surrounded by pyramids that once witnessed more serious sacrifices than a tribal member banished. The Maya “ajaw”, the ruler, would pierce his ear or his “aat” (hint – women don’t have one), catch the blood on paper, and then burn the soaked pages in a bowl. If all went well, the ceremony would open a portal to other levels of the world and the ancient dead kings could advise the living. The place would briefly become the axis of the world, and the color of the axis - the center of things - was “Yax”. At least, that is the current interpretation of glyphic records and carved scenes from the Classic, 250 AD to 909 AD.
All the great Maya cities immortalized the lives of their rulers with monuments of their births, glorious deeds and deaths – like we do. Sometimes they exaggerated the glorious deeds a bit – like we do. Much of Yaxha’s history is fuzzy. It is not because vengeful enemies smashed the monuments, though that happened enough. Yaxha’s monuments were carved from soft limestone. Time and weather has made many of them unreadable. It doesn’t pay to go cheap for timeless memorials.
That said, some of the stela (commemorative standing stones) can still be read but a lot of Yaxha’s history comes from other cities. A neighbor to the east, Naranjo (real name Saal) besieged and then burned Yaxha in 710 AD. The lord of Naranjo dug up the bones of Yaxha’s previous king and scattered them on an island – probably Topoxte – for spite. We know this because he recorded it on tough limestone.
About 9 miles north is Nakum, namesake of the other Survivor tribe. It has a lot of standing architecture, which means it has unrestored buildings a person can poke their head into, unlike the usual ruin. A friend of mine once described a typical Maya site as “big piles of dirt in the woods”.
Not quite 20 miles northwest of Yaxha is Yax-Mutal, better known as Tikal. “Tikal” just means “at the waterhole” but its ancient name translates as “First Topknot”. There’s that “yax” again, but this time it refers to the center, to being “numero uno”.
The ruined cities are all flanked by bajos, ie. swamps. This doesn’t sound like a good thing, but it was. In May 1995, Patrick Culbert and 5 colleagues chopped a path straight from Yaxha to Nakum through the heart of Bajo La Justa. It took them ten miserable 12-hour days to slog a mere 8 miles. They found the soil was rich, and, on every little island, there were house mounds. In the center of the swamp was the largest ruin, Poza Maya, with 40 structures and 9 courtyards. Nearby they found a square reservoir 250 km on a side. Traces of canals and raised fields gridded the soggy land. The bajos were breadbaskets for the cities.
For another reason why all these cities clustered here, a look at a decent map of the Peten is enough. A series of lakes runs east to west from the Belize River to the Rio San Pedro Martir, which flows to the Usumacinta and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Maya traders could not only get a drink at the end of the day, but also paddle and carry their way all the way across the Yucatan peninsula. Four mile long Lake Yaxha was part of a chain of lakes - Sacnab, Yaxha, Lancaja and Champoxte – stretching for ten miles, with short carries between lakes.
So how did it all come apart? Some – maybe most - of the cities were badly overpopulated, and then a long drought struck. It reached rock bottom in 862 AD. Things get fuzzy because one city after another stopped recording their history. Some show signs of war. In what is now Quintana Roo, Mx., the city of Yo’okop built a fort around, not its temples, but its shrinking waterhole. Cities didn’t collapse overnight or even everywhere. At Yaxha, the city was abandoned but not everyone left the lakes. If they had, the names “Yaxha” and “Sacnab” would not have survived. The lakes shrank but, after the drought passed, smaller cities sprang up on the islands.
I wish I could end on a really upbeat note, but not everything is perfect in the region. The ancient cities are again becoming islands, but of a different sort. They are surrounded by the last fragments of a grand forest that only 20 years ago covered most of northern Guatemala and nearby Mexico. Overpopulation has again pushed people to cut down the forest for hardscrabble farms. They soon exhaust the soil, forcing another cycle of clear cutting. Even being within a park is no absolute guarantee that the forest won’t be logged or the ruins looted. In the northwest corner of Peten, much of Laguna del Tigre National Park has been taken over by narcos (drug smugglers). Ruins along the Usumacinta River periodically face the threat of a dam drowning them. Even the Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Natural Monument is not immune from these dangers. William Gibson hit it on the head when he called the past “that sea upon which the present tossed and rode”.
Ron Canter, 10-4-05
A Scattering of Readings:
Conquest of Yucatan, Franz Blom, 1936. Houghton Mifflin Co.
Breaking the Maya Code, Michael Coe, 1999, Thames & Hudson, NY.
Possible Role of Climate in the Collapse of the Classic Maya Civilization. Hodell, D.A., J. H. Curtis, and M. Brenner. 1995. Nature 375:391-394.
Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, Simon Martin & Nikolai Grube, 2000, Thames & Hudson, Ltd. London, UK.
Sacred Monkey River, A Canoe Trip With the Gods, Chris Shaw, 2000, W.W Norton & Co.
Classic Maya Place Names, David Stuart & Stephen Houston, 1994. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art & Archaeology, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Wash, DC.
Maya Expeditions, Guatemala
Serious river tours of major Maya sites, including Yaxha – led by Tammy Ridenour
MEC (Maya exploration Center), Mexico
Excellent tours arranged by Ed Barnhart, of Palenque Mapping Project
Sierra del Lacandon National Park, Guatemala
Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Natural Monument, Guatemala
Via Slashdot, a link to the Wall Street Journal review of Ray Kurzweil's new book:
And Charlie Stross's online novel:
Via Jon Lebkowsky.
High profile non-scientist (okay he's an MD) Michael Crichton twists the scientific method in his continuing vendetta against global warming believers and environmentalists.