Grove of the Old Trees

Photos (c) Russell Johnson

Occidental, California, a railroad stop in earlier times, is known for its family-style Italian restaurants. Negri’s has been a popular spot since 1943 and The Union Hotel claims to have been dishing lasagna since 1879. In nearby Bohemian Grove, the fat cats of industry and politics (mostly Republican men) frolic – sometimes naked – in the summer. In the 1940s, the Manhattan Project, which gave birth to the atomic bomb, was planned there.

But high above the clanking of forks and the clicking of tongues, is a verdant, meditative stand of old-growth redwoods called Grove of the Old Trees.

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Going Gray: World Elephant Day

Elephant Threesome Sri LankaAll photos (c) Russell Johnson

Hard to believe that there are only 40 thousand or so Asian elephants still alive and that six African elephants are killed each day. Reversing this is what today, World Elephant Day, is about.

It is a time to both celebrate and pray for the elephant.

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Earth Day: Photos of Six Green Places We Like

Elephants - Sri LankaSri Lanka – Photo: Russ Johnson

What is green tourism?

It is not all about recycling and saving energy, it is about how tourism fits with a local community, its environment and its people. Green, or Good Tourism, as I like to call it, contributes. Bad tourism – tourism that overwhelms – destroys.

I have seen many travel destinations and experiences deteriorate over the years. I still enjoy small cruise ships and river boats. This new generation of floating cities, which carry four thousand or more passengers, have been likened to floating strip mines due to their effect on small ports they visit, changing once-pristine places to crowded, greedy carnivals. Places like Cambodia’s Angkor which I, almost shamefully, helped introduce to the world of tourism, are jammed with hotels, tourists and the destructive culture that comes with them. But wait, there is hope. There are many places in the world where Good Tourism still has the upper hand. Here are six.

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EPA Rules Against Scary Stowaways: Ships Must Treat Ballast Water

Zebra Mussel

The US Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that ship ballast water – often a witches’ brew of microbes, eggs, plants and creatures (some as much as a foot long) – must be treated before it is released.

Environmentalists sued the EPA over ballast’s exemption from the Clean Water Act.

Cruise ships, which use ballast water to stabilize their ride, dump as much as 70 thousand liters of the nasty cocktail every day. But they are not the biggest culprits. There are huge tankers and cargo ships that must be weighed down when they are empty and thousands of rust-buckets that don’t really care about the rules. Most cruise ships are fairly modern and can be retrofitted with treatment systems.

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Big Splash: Following the Whales Off Gloucester [video]

Whale breaching near Gloucester, Mass

You wouldn’t know that whales are threatened with extinction watching this show. I am in a Whale Watching Boat on the Stellwagen Bank, a national marine sanctuary southeast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, watching a performance of hefty gymnasts: humpback and fin whales. I have spotted a couple gray whales off of the coast of California but never any this big and up close. Here, whale watching boats offer a money back guarantee. You WILL see whales. I do.

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