1710 - Less industry - and less crowded
The Industrial Revolution has made the world a place the Ancients would have a hard time recognizing as the same planet they walked thousands of years ago. From electrical devices, to modern transportation, to global climate change - industry has changed everything.
The quantity, quality, and speed of change in the post-industrial world is mind boggling. By any indices you wish to cite, life has changed more in the last 250 years than in the previous 5000. It's astounding.
And this week the World's population will reach 7 billion. SEVEN BILLION. As in People.
To throw that mind-numbing figure into context - consider these interesting facts:
2011 - A lot more - of everything
- in the year 1700 the Earth's population was 600 million
- in 1800 it was 1 billion
- in 1930 it reached 2 billion
- in 1999 - 6 billion
In other words - it took over six thousand years to reach 1 billion. But it has taken only 12 years to go from 6 billion to 7 billion. And that trend will continue.
Experts calculate the Earth's population will reach 10 billion
by 2083; almost 20 years before the turn of the next century.
Mid 60's. Ahhh - nice day for a drive
To give you an idea of how many a billion is - consider that 1 billion seconds ago it was 1789. And we've added that many people in just 12 years.
The question comes to mind - how many people can the world support? It's a complex discussion - but one thing is clear. But no matter how many the Earth can support, a lot of thought and planning will have to go into making sure so many people can live in a way that is acceptable.
With 1 billion people currently living without access to clean water - how do we insure that the next billion won't just be added to that group? To say nothing of eliminating this problem altogether. And that's just one factor of many.
Two-thirds of the water used on Earth today goes toward agriculture. And the lion's share of that (statistics vary) is targeted at meat production in one way or another. Cattle eat grain - and it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat. And that takes a lot of water.
2011. We might need to rethink this
So one thing is definitely clear; the 10 billion people of 2083 will not be able to eat the way most Americans eat today. There just isn't enough water to produce that much meat. And so - the world's diet will have to change. Whether we want it to or not.
Seven billion is a milestone worthy of noting; both for it's absolute quantity and the speed at which we reached it. And frankly, it's a little unsettling.
It seems obvious that unless human societies begin to drastically and quickly change how we approach human organization on Earth - the tipping point at which unforeseen affects start to overwhelm the impact of conscious interventions will be reached - and soon.
And that's a little scary.
Pisaq and the Sacred Valley
Nothing is simple about history. Every angle of perspective is at once true - and hopelessly incomplete. Every discovered detail a window - in a labyrinth.
Yet, is-spite of this, plateaus of understanding exist. Could've been and should've been ultimately give way to is.
But oft times the is of now does more to mask the impact of was than anything else. The Sacred Valley of the Inca is filled with what was.
And, in many ways, little of what now is seems organically connected to it; and often even less of it seems to have changed at all. Both perspectives are true; neither is complete.
Time and being
The conquest of the Inca by the treasure hunting Spaniards was a tragedy to some - an essential bridge to others. The ancient civilizations of every continent were always doomed to be absorbed into each other.
Incan Pisaq view of Spanish Pisaq
Like the seasons themselves, a pattern of contact and assimilation has been followed for as long as time has existed. It could never be otherwise. The only constant - is change.
Yet, as nature herself is now demonstrating, this process, these seasons, are far from abstract; anything but neutral. There is a path to history, a direction. There are results. There is a destination.
Arrival at ourselves
The Sacred Valley is haunted with ancient paths and themes. If for no other reason, the physical juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary serve to constantly throw our now into the contrasting shadow of was.
And that constant tension permeates the atmosphere; is present in every interaction, both physical and cerebral. More so than most places. And it is special because of that.
So we walk the paths; ruminate about the themes. Our journeys become struggles within ourselves - to see ourselves - to know ourselves. We look for what we think we have yet to learn - and we more often than not see truths we feel - but somehow still don't know.
A path within; Inca street - Ollantaytambo
So we keep looking.
Joschka Fischer is one of those type of public figures whose personal narrative seems stranger than fiction. How does someone go from a violent, far-left militant, to eventually becoming the Foreign Minister of Germany? It's just not the normal path to success in the industrialized world. And - just not normal - is a perfect way to view both the man and his recent introduction, via film, to San Francisco.
The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is currently running at what is perhaps America's most un-normal movie venue, the Castro Theater. Friday saw the screening of director Pepe Danquart's "Joschka & Mr. Fischer" and seldom have a film subject and screening location been more alike. Both completely unique, both impossible to forget.
The film follows the evolution of one Joseph Martin Fischer, an ethnic German originally from Hungary, who has always been known by the Hungarian nickname Joschka. Born in 1948, to follow his story is, in many respects, to follow the story of post-war Germany.
Starting out as the politically conservative son of a small town butcher, Joschka goes from being a Marxist leftist, to working class drop-out, to depressed taxi driver, before reinventing himself as a Green Party activist and step by step evolving into the person who becomes an icon of the modern German state.
And what's both fascinating and encouraging is watching how he remains true to himself throughout. His journey is not a study in being corrupted, but rather one of true, meaningful growth; the path to maturity and wisdom. Both for him, and for the society that spawned him.
His arrival in the mainstream of modern politics and society says as much about the development of post-war Germany as it does about him. Both evolved toward each other and in doing so, both grew-up.
The Normalcy of Unique
So it was somewhat ironic to see his story first presented to American audiences in The Castro Theater. After all, their stories are so similar in some ways.
Both emerged from the margins of social respectability and normalcy to become uniquely (and somewhat quirkily) central to a new social milieu. And in the process, a newness emerged from the melding that reflects a symbiosis, despite its unlikely genesis.
The uniqueness of tradition
To walk into the Castro Theater is to both step back in time and simultaneously arrive at the very cutting edge of social modernity.
The theater is like a living time capsule. From the art deco design of the building itself, to the opulently decorated interior and large viewing screen, the Castro just oozes tradition.
Yet so truly does it hold to tradition that it winds up being completely unique for it. Here is the only theater left (anywhere??) with a real organ that rises on an elevated platform from beneath the stage to treat the waiting audience to 20 minutes of live music before each film. If you want to know what a movie going experience was like in earliest days of film, come to the Castro.
And no ordinary films ever play in this most extraordinary venue. The Castro survives by showing vintage, cult, and contemporary avant-garde film festival material.
Rebels with a Cause
So it all seemed so fitting, the match of Joschka with the Castro. Two rebels who had triumphed over their outcast status. And through their processes of evolution, both demonstrated how our modern societies and cultures have changed too. By absorbing these outcasts through their maturity and growth, society has demonstrated its own.
It seemed as though both were messengers that night; the theater and the man. Beacons signaling that the best of life is tied to the fullness of life. That there is no us or them; no normal nor abnormal. There is only us. And that perspective is everything. The broader it is - the more real it is. And what's real, works.
Joschka found this out. And so did San Francisco.
The site at the moment of re-discovery
600 Years of Solitude
The rediscovery of the Inca city of Machu Picchu is officially recognized as taking place in 1911 when Hiram Bingham stumbled on the site while looking for the lost city of Vilcabamba. Of such good fortune are many careers made.
Other Western explorers had also been to the site, but their goal had been to plunder, not to study. Bingham, on the other hand, returned to the site in 1912 at the behest of Yale University and the National Geographic Society for the express purpose of documenting the find and conducting research. He is thus credited with the discovery, exactly 100 years ago.
That Machu Picchu was still there to find is somewhat of a miracle. The city had been essentially abandoned a few decades before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, and as a result, was never discovered by them.
If they had discovered it, there would probably be a big Catholic cathedral there now instead of the essentially intact remnants of an Incan civilization. At the very least, it would've been completely destroyed for being pagan, as the Spanish had done to every other indigenous site they discovered anywhere in the Americas. Of such good fortune are miracles born.
Bingham - a Punahou graduate
The End - and Beginning of Plunder
This discovery not only revealed Machu Picchu to the world, but it also prevented treasure hunters from continuing to steal items from the site. Or so it seemed.
However, during the years immediately following Bingham's discovery, thousands of priceless artifacts were removed by the explorer himself and shipped to Yale University in the United States; ostensibly on loan for purposes of research.
The only thing is, the loaned items were never returned, despite repeated demands for such by the government of Peru. At first Yale took the position that Peru, as a third-world nation, could not be trusted with the priceless artifacts and simply refused to honor their earlier pledge to return them. As far as Yale was concerned, that was the end of the discussion; forever.
Ultimately, The National Geographic Society, who had also been part of the original agreement, declared their support for Peru's ownership of the artifacts and began to pressure Yale to relent and return their treasure. Meanwhile, the Peruvian government began legal action in US courts to force the return.
In the face of this double effort, Yale simply stopped talking. As far as they were concerned, the discussion was over.
Garcia & another Punahou graduate
But late last year former Peruvian President Alan Garcia appealed directly to President Barack Obama to intervene on Peru's behalf. And with Obama, Garcia was preaching to the choir.
Within two weeks of that appeal, Obama summoned Yale representatives to the White House and shortly thereafter Yale announced that they would indeed - at long last - return all of the more than 40,000 "borrowed" artifacts to Peru.
That process is now underway. The first shipment, containing all of the museum quality pieces, arrived in Peru earlier this year to great fanfare. Eventually, these pieces will be displayed in the Inca Museum at the Casa Concha in Cusco.
Happy birthday Machu Picchu!
The first shipment arrives. Happy Birthday!
Below are some photos I recently took at Machu Picchu.
It's really happening
For the last several months United fliers have started to notice bigger and bigger changes taking place in the Friendly Skies. United and Continental have merged, and the impact is really starting to be noticeable.
So for those of you who fly United, I have put together a quick overview on the biggest changes that are most likely to have a direct impact on you.
The merger is still not fully completed - but enough changes have either already been made - or been announced - to enable us to draw some early impressions.
But I caution you to remember that they are still two, completely separate entities. I mention this because of stumbling on a woman the other day looking for UA flight X when her boarding pass clearly said CO. Flier beware! Anyway - here we go.
The Not So Good
- Probably the number one thing that separates United from every other US carrier is their Economy Plus seating option in coach. All coach seats from roughly the wing forward have more space between rows, and thus more leg space. The difference is dramatic - and is the single biggest reason I fly United. I am quite pleased to report that all of Continental's fleet will be so configured once incorporated into United's. Hallelujah!
- United's three-tiered Elite flier system (Premier/Premiere Exec/1K) is changing to a 4 tiered system: Silver/Gold/Platinum/1K. The main change here is the addition of a 75K-100K level - now called Platinum.
- The Red Carpet Club will change it's name to The United Club. I like this. I never liked the hoity-toity elitist name Red Carpet Club. It pure aesthetics - but hey.
- New International routes. For example - Peru. I just flew there using United award miles. This time last year that wouldn't have been possible. Big plus.
- New paint job. United has changed their paint design a lot in the last 20 years. I've liked them all - but I really, really like their new one. It's essentially Continental's existing design - but with the name United in it's place - and I think it looks great.
- More terminal space. United will get great Continental terminals & gates at places like Houston - and they're expanding terminal space at places like San Francisco. Nice.
- Only 1K's will receive 100% mileage match on flights flown. Heretofore - 50K-100K Premier Execs also received 100% match. Now the match structure will correspond to the Elite level. 25K = 25%; 50K = 50%, etc. That's a big change if you've been a Premiere Exec before - and will be noticed.
- Premier/Silver 25K level will no longer be able to choose Economy Plus seating at booking - only at check-in. And since almost all flights are full at check-in, good luck. This is a Huge negative change for Premiers. I anticipate it means the end of unpaid Economy Plus seating for this Elite tier.
- Premier/Silver 25K will only be allowed 1 free checked bag versus the current 2. Ka-ching. Well, ya had to see that one coming. Solution? Lug the second one on-board.
United will be the first US carrier with the 787
Change is the Only Constant
These are the big ones so far; others are sure to come. The bottom line is that being a Premier/Silver 25K-50K flier isn't going to get you much any longer. And anyone between 50K-100K will be getting noticeably less perks than pre-merger.
However - the expanded route structure and number of available seats are definitely a plus. And all Elite level fliers wanting to redeem miles will be guaranteed a Standard Award seat on any flight with space (even if it's the last available revenue seat) - which is nice when trying to book award travel. Note that I said Standard Award - not Saver Award - but still pretty cool.
So I'm giving United an A- so far. The A is for maintaining Economy Plus seating. The minus is for stripping too many perks from the Premier Level, and dis-ing the 50K-100K level on matching miles.
It's not a perfect picture - but still pretty good.
My idea of a Hotel
As I've mentioned in these pages before, I tend to shy away from the 'social' when it comes to hotel arrangements on the road. And as I've also mentioned here, my 'significant other' has other ideas on this subject, so Bed & Breakfast type accommodations have increasingly started to pop-up in my (our) travel itineraries.
I continue to dread each one - and continue to be proven completely wrong in my predisposition against such arrangements - which only serves to weaken each future argument against choosing another.
And now it has happened again.
We planned to spend just two days in Arequipa, so I figured I could gut this one out, even if only to finally score a point. This time I was certain my initial hesitancy would be proven correct and I would gain valuable capital for future debates over potential hotel arrangements.
Arrival in Arequipa
With this is mind, I acquiesced and agreed to stay at a place called Lula's B&B. An apartment rather than a house, it sounded more like being someone's roommate that a guest in a hotel.
I was dubious - to put it mildly. Just not the kind of arrangement someone as anti-social as me should get involved with.
But relationships are built on compromise, so with that in-mind, I gulped and mumbled a somewhat less than enthusiastic - adalante.
Wllkommen bei Arequipa
Lula's is run by a husband/wife couple out of their modern, top floor apartment in a gated complex a mile or so from Arequipa's central Plaza de Armas.
We were met at the airport by the husband - and this was my first surprise. A tall, gray-haired Gringo man in his mid-60's, rather stern looking on first-impression, greeted us in German-accented French with a hearty Bonjour. Hmmm. Not really the Peruvian experience I had envisioned.
El Misti volcano from the apartment
Max is the husband-half of Lula's B&B; a Swiss-born perpetual expatriate who has lived in more places than I've visited - I was immediately intrigued.
As he drove us to the B&B, we began exploring which language would be our chosen form of communication. My girlfriend's native French, Max's adopted Spanish, or my English. This exploration was never fully resolved - and at some point German and Portuguese were added to the mix. I speak elements of several - Max is completely fluent in each. Hmmm. Intriguing indeed.
Home Sweet Home
Arriving at the B&B building, we huffed and puffed our way to the top floor to discover a lovely and very home-style apartment with a wonderful view of the surrounding neighborhoods and terraced farm fields. Spacious, with a comfortably furnished living room and adjacent dining area as you enter.
Breakfast on the terrace
To your right you pass through a doorway leading to a mid-sized TV room, which also has a desk housing a 15" internet-equipped PC laptop, provided for guests. Pass through this room and you reach the large kitchen, affording another panoramic view, now of the opposite side of the complex.
From here a small spiral-staircase leads to the second floor where the guest facilities are located. This is actually two rooms; the main bedroom, small but adequate, with a very comfortable queen-sized bed, desk, TV (with international cable channels), and a smaller adjacent room with a twin-sized bed and plenty of closet space. A door in the main bedroom leads to the private bathroom and shower.
Next to the guest quarters is another doorway that leads to the large outdoor terrace which both overlooks the surrounding area and gives a quite spectacular view of the looming Andes. In-fact, El Misti Volcano seems close enough to touch.
And it is here that our private breakfast was served each morning. Max presents you with a menu as part of your arrival orientation - and you select which items you'd like the following morning. The selection is wide - and the final result excellent.
Journal writing with a view
I was beginning to relax. Yes, it's an apartment, not a house. But the physical arrangement of the rooms gives you complete privacy - and access to what can only be described as a magnificent terrace.
As we prepared to leave for our first full day in Arequipa, Max quizzed us as to what we'd like for dinner that evening. I mentioned that I am a vegetarian - well, a vegan to be precise - but am flexible while traveling. Pork - no. Fish or chicken - in the spirit of adaptability - no problem. And with that we were off.
Upon returning that evening for dinner - the social part of our stay began. We finally met Lula, the wife half of the team and namesake of the B&B.
Lula is a charming 50-something Arequipa born Peruvian woman who also runs a Spanish language school during the day. And like her polyglot husband, speaks a variety of languages.
Max is the chef of the house, and the kitchen is the nerve-center for the evening. We were introduced to our first ever Pisco Sour (in a word - Mmmm) as an aperitif while Max cooked - and conversed. A former UN official and economist, Max and Lula have lived all over the world - and been involved in fascinating events in each locale.
Max preparing my vegetarian meal
Dinner at Lula's
As a writer and one time history teacher, I usually do not find it very difficult to hold my own in discussions of travel, politics, social-issues, and the like; the standard fare at traveler's dinner tables. But after 10 minutes of talking with Max, I knew I was completely overmatched.
An evening with Max is to be in the presence of a true Renaissance man. And not a shy one. Max not only has opinions and views on everything - but informed opinions and views, usually based in concrete, first-hand experience.
Half-way through our dinner preparations one of Lula's students dropped by; a young Czech world traveler camped for a while in Arequipa to learn Spanish. Then Max's Peruvian handy man arrived, a nattily dressed, thoughtful young man who seemed to be a master of everything practical in life - and totally charming. Then Lula left for a bit to walk the dog. Eventually we all decamped to the dining room to eat.
In other words - dinner was an event. With discussions ranging from the difficulties in rebuilding war-torn Kosovo, to the syntactic particularities of French, Spanish, and Serbo-Croation, to the economic theories of availability bias, and even why global-warming may save, instead of threaten, the Earth.
I was even joyfully reintroduced to the musically intellectual wit of Tom Lehrer after a hiatus of many years. And in many ways - dinner with Max is very much akin to an evening with Mr. Lehrer. You are treated to a wide-ranging discussion of fascinating and expertly understood subjects that leave you thoughtful, slightly humbled - and thoroughly amused. And occasionally devilishly perplexed - as if listening to Mr. Lehrer explain New Math (see below).
Lula & yours truly
So the moral of the story? Well - I've completely abandoned all future attempts to avoid B&B's and social interaction in my future travels - that's for sure.
Why? Because I now realize that my previous preference for regular hotels over B&B's was simply based upon my more extensive familiarity with
the regular; not on bad B&B experiences. It was a bias born of available
information; that is, an availability bias
. A concept, by the way, that I was completely ignorant of until that dinner with Max.
Second moral of the story; my girlfriend has finally triumphed.
And I'm glad.
Lula's B&B is an absolute treasure - and if your travels take you to Arequipa, don't pass it by.http://www.bbaqpe.com/
A very Maxian taste of Tom Lehrer
There is no word in Quechua for 'friend'; one can only call another brother or sister. Nor does this ancient Peruvian language have a word for Goodbye. In place of this rather final sounding sentiment is a word meaning "till next time".
To some, these two linguistic anomalies are nothing more than technical matters reflecting the difficulty inherent in all translations. Some even attribute the difference to a lack of precision in ancient tongues, reflecting their lack of intellectual evolution.
After all, modern languages like French and English have many more words conveying an ever increasing precision of meaning and nuance. And viewed from this perspective, some have concluded that Quechua meanings are simply echoes of a simpler - less complex culture and time. The lack of ostensible exactness merely a semantic relic; an archaeologic footnote.
Or so it seems to some.
The Now of Lima
The Modern World
Most visitors to Peru first arrive in Lima, the sprawling modern metropolis founded in 1535 by the Spanish Conquistador
Francisco Pizarro. More than 1/3 of the entire Peruvian population resides here, and for many it is the very quintessence of contemporary Peru. Walking its streets is akin to a stroll in New York, Mexico City, or any number of similar giant cities of the modern world.
Founded to facilitate the export of stolen treasure, its raison d'être is, and has always been, expediency. Lima's concerns are rooted in the practical demands of today's world; of the here and now. Her gaze is riveted on the commercial concerns of the moment. Little, if any, energy is devoted to looking backwards. The path from today to tomorrow consumes the attention of Lima; the cob-web covered road to the past is barely noticed - rarely traversed.
From the state-of-the-art newness and sophistication of Miraflores to the ramshackle slums of her outskirts - Lima is the capital of the present; the King of Now.
Where breathing is a challenge, and time desolves
Into the Andes
Immediately upon arriving in any city of southern Peru you know you are in a world apart from that of Lima. If nothing else, the altitude at once grabs your attention as you struggle for breath in the oxygen thin air of the Andes.
From the relatively lower elevation of Arequipa's volcano surrounded 2,335 meters to that of La Raya at 4,335 - the Peruvian Andes compel acknowledgement of their uniqueness. And in every corner of the altiplano you sense differentness; the unique is ever present.
Skins are darker, languages more diverse, colors distinctly vibrant and new as you reach the rarefied environment of southern Peru. Not only do you struggle for breath in this somewhat otherworldly terrain - but for focus as well.
The third-eye of your mind blinks again and again to clear the now from your consciousness as you are continually presented with something strangely other; something just beyond the focal-plane of your present-based gaze. Something decidedly un-now.
Portal in time; above Cuzco at Saqsaywaman
The Capital of the Inca
While the cities of Arequipa, Juliaca, and Puno are each captivating and deserving a visit - it is Cuzco that is the portal to the otherworld that travelers to this region strive so hard to bring into focus. Here is the center of the Inca culture and the gateway to some of the most fascinating and mysterious historical sites on the planet.
With neighborhoods climbing into the hills surrounding its ancient core in the Urubamba river valley, Cuzco is striking in both its locale and its history.
Its very name is a Spanish transliteration from the Quechuan original Qusqu or Qosqo, which itself traces its origin to the even more ancient Aymara language. Both tongues are still widely spoken in the Andes.
Indeed, the roots of history here stretch much further back than the time of the Inca. Archaeological research indicates that pre-Incan civilizations can be dated to 7000 BCE.
So the basic psyche of the aboriginal Peruvian culture had been formed during many millennia prior to the Spanish conquest of the Inca in 1533. And that ancientness can be sensed, in a thousand different ways, just beneath the surface, in and around the Cuzco of today.
Still Waters Run Deep
One gets an odd feeling sitting in the main cathedral of Cuzco today. Everywhere you look you notice that each pillar and wall is constructed of the stones taken from destroyed Incan temples and buildings. The Inca were forced to worship their conqueror's God amidst the reconfigured remnants of their own past.
Yet as I stood one morning watching my ostensibly Christian, Spanish (as a second language) speaking Quechua guide demonstrate to me the proper procedure for giving coca leaves to "The Gods" before ingesting them ourselves, I realized that this culture had only been subjugated; never conquered.
As you browse Quechua markets seeing ebony pumas, serpents, and Inca crosses everywhere - you can feel it. As you stare into the coal black eyes of Incan descendants - eyes that seem to look back from another place - another epoch - you begin to sense the depth of time and place that lies behind those otherworldly glances.
As you see festivals spilling spontaneously into the streets - the participants dancing steps with origins lost in the far distant past - wearing costumes which pre-date Christ - you somehow know that the cathedrals and plazas of the Conquistadors are but a ripple on the surface of a very still, and very deep river.
And as you begin to absorb these messages - you begin to see why the Quechua has no word for friend - only for brother/sister.
You begin to know why goodbye never entered their language; why all leave-takings are seen as temporary; ephemeral.
As I left my guide before my return home - I knew that I had been subtly changed in some way by contact with these currents; by staring into this river. No words can adequately convey the nature of that change in me. I only know that as I left - I was certain that I would see my brother again.
Yesterday I made my way from Puno to Cuzco on a 10 hour bus ride across the Andean Altiplano. It was one of the (if not the) most scenic rides of my life. Wide stretches of total desolation, pampas, and mountains reaching 6000 meters, dotted with peasant villages filled with the descendants of the Incas.
The Altiplano is the high country of the Andes - well over 4000 meters. The air is thin and moving faster than a turtle is ill-advised. Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of this wonderland.