The smoke from the Syncrude Upgrader can be seen for miles. The Keystone Pipeline project, if accepted in the USA, will transport the canadian oil to the Texas refineries of the Gulf of Mexico. The smokestacks sit above the Upgrader that covert Oilsands bitumen to light crude oil. The large lakes are tailings pond filled with liquid residues from the Bitumen upgrading process. For every barrel of bitumen mined from the oilsands, 1.5 barrels of toxic tailing water is produced. The yellow mounts are Sulphur piles, another byproduct of the upgrading process. The oilsands underlie approximately 140,000 square kilometers of Alberta, an area only slightly larger than England. Canada's oilsands are the third largest petroleum reserve in the world, smaller only to those of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
"The beauty of the boreal forest that surrounds Fort McMurray and covers most of northern Alberta lies in its magnitude, but once you arrive at oil-sands central, what you see is a landscape erased, a terrain stretching in a radius of many hundreds of square kilometres that is not so much negatively impacted as forcibly stripped bare and excavated. Dominating this landscape are half a dozen giant extraction and refining plants with their stacks and smoke and fire, disorientingly wide and deep mines, and tailings ponds held in check by some of the world’s largest dams. As a panoramic vision, it’s all rather heartbreaking but, if one is forced to be honest, also awe-inspiring, such is the energy and the damage produced by human ambition".
The Englewood Crushers
Crushers Club founder Sally Hazelgrove worked for years with the most troubled youth in the Englewood neighborhood. Every murder meant two sets of parents lost a child, one to murder, the other to prison or the street.
Knowing that’s where the difference really needed to be made, Sally set out to “find a light that is brighter than the street”. She found that boxing was the one sport that the boys most wanted access to. She learned to box and started a boxing program, and moved her family to Englewood. The program recruits youth from the street and pulls in the most defiant and troublesome boys from the local schools.
She give kids an alternative to gang life by providing a safe heaven , an extended family where kids find they are loved, respected and expected to keep out of trouble. Some of the older boys are on the payroll to help run the program and coach the younger ones.
Sally : “We are all about second chances. I never want to kick a kid out of the program permanently, no matter how difficult they are to deal with. I don’t sweat the small stuff. Are they carrying a gun ? Are they using drugs ? Have they quit gang banging? This is what’s important for now”.
The results are impressive : 90% improvement in school performance for the boys involved in the program, and the older are graduating high school. Only 10% of the boys with previous arrest have been rearrested – instead of 87% for the rest of Englewood .
"If it wasn't for Jesus, I'll be probably dead now" confess 35 year old Pastor Cleetus. Although he was born in a Christian home (his father had a church) it didn't keep him out of trouble, and after years of self-destructive behavior on the hardcore punk scene fueled by anger and anti establishment rebellion, he was 'born again' at 24, 'filled with the holy spirit'. He cleaned up his act , married his wife Nichole and started thinking about preaching the Gospel. The rebellion was still ingrained in him - Jesus was a rebel after all- and Cleetus realized that there were many more like him , born again but still disconnected from established churches : he decided to open the DBC church without studying to become a minister. He just opened it, bible in one hand and a electric guitar in the other one .
At the same time, the phenomenon was happening to other parts of the country, Rise Above Ministries started in San Antonio, Anchor church in Houston, Hope for the Rejected in Baltimore, others in New York, Chicago, California. The bands associated with the churches started touring the country playing clubs, churches and festivals, thus connecting the communities nationwide. American Christians are very entrepreneurial at reaching out to groups of people.
Christian underground music is a sizeable marketshare of the Christian music industry . Today, any respectable Christian festival has a Hardcore/Underground stage where young testosterone-high tattooed Christian punks and metalheads can slam each other inside the moshpit.. The angst and the rage are still there, expressing a revolt against an unfair world, and the answer is about submission to the divine ...
Sacred Waters: India's Great Kumbh Mela Pilgrimage
According to Hindu mythology, the gods and demons once fought a great battle for a “Kumbh” (pitcher) containing the nectar of immortality. For 12 days and 12 nights they fought in the sky and it is said that during the scuffle, four drops of nectar fell in four places : Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Every three years, one of the four site chosen by the holy drops become a pilgrimage destination for millions of Hindus, it is the Bathing festival known as the Kumbha Mela – Festival of the pitcher.
The Kumbh Mela is the largest religious congregation on earth it is actually the largest human gathering on the planet. Some 30 million people came to bathe in Prayag on January 24, 2001 the day of the royal bath.
It attracts millions of pilgrims, including masses of holy men , especially Nagas (naked sadhus) of militant monastic orders. They come to take a ritual bath in the waters turned nectar, to free themselves of past sins and generate great religious merit. Astrologers carefully pinpoint the auspicious time to take a holy dip and at this time, the first to do so are the Nagas.
I started documenting the Kumbh Mela in 1998. Working as a photojournalist, I had the assignment to cover the processions and the royal bath of the Hardwar Kumbh Mela for a magazine. The processions may be the festival most memorable event, but the festival showcase every facets of Hindu religious life. The week-long assignment became a month-long stay, as I realized that there was more to it. It was India at its most fascinating and mysterious, its most sophisticated and its most unique form.
These masses of people moved by faith are one of the great spectacles of humanity.
India's Silent War
India's Maoist insurgency is active in 182 districts of the country's 400. Dantewara District in the state of Chhattisgarh is at the frontline of a low level civil war, with Police, Army units and anti-maoist miltias fighting the naxalites (maoists) for the control of tribal land and its resources ...
War on Polio
Although the threat of polio has been contained in wealthy nations, the disease is still crippling children in the developing world every year. In 1988, the 160 countries of the World Health Organization adopted a resolution for the eradication of polio by the year 2000.
In 1988, an estimated 350,000 polio cases occurred worldwide.
Polio can be eradicated because the virus resides solely in human and a vaccine is available. But until every country is polio-free, no country in the world is free from the risk of it. The problem is that the countries where the virus is still transmitted are some of the poorest where population at risk are unable to get basic health services because of isolation, neglect, civil strife or war.
I started covering the story as a personal project after securing a grant from the Rotary Foundation. After its first publication in Life magazine, I continued documenting the polio eradication effort on behalf of WHO, Rotary International and publications throughout 15 countries in Asia and Africa.
The eradication of polio is the largest public health initiative ever attempted by man. Its success will be one of the greatest feat of human history, not only because it will rid the world of a deadly virus, but also because it will leave the infrastructure to fight other diseases.
In 2012, there were still 222 cases of polio worldwide, mainly in Pakistan Afghanistan and Nigeria, the last three remaining polio endemic countries.
India is no longer on the list of polio endemic country, having recorded the last case of polio on January 13, 2011.