Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘WordPress

WPC: It IS Easy Being Green

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via Photo Challenge: It IS Easy Being Green!

Parque Josone, Varadero
Parque Josone in Varadero, Cuba where even the water in the boating lake is green.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

My wish for Cuba

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via Photo Challenge: Wish

Wish

The photo was taken last week in Old Havana, on the Paseo Marti at lunchtime. We had found a restaurant on the roof of the Asturias friendship association’s building: they have a barbecue up there. I had a whole grilled red snapper, my partner the largest pork brocheta I have ever seen. We felt very lucky to be away from the cold of Vancouver, in a beautiful old city. Then I looked across at the other side of the street.

There are many old buildings in Havana, which tourists love to photograph. They are highly picturesque and a few have been beautifully restored. Many more are in desperate need of repair. Look at the balcony of the window to the left of where this woman is standing. The old rusted rebar is still there, hanging loose. The concrete has fallen away. Yet there she stands – and where she is standing is going to go the same way one day.

Cuba has been subject to a lot of severe weather – many sites show the damage caused by hurricanes. These weather events are getting more severe and more frequent. Many countries are switching to renewable energy sources to try to limit the increase in the greenhouse gases that are the cause of the change in our climate. It is not just warming: it is sea level rise, storms and plagues.

In  its recent history Cuba suffered as a result of the US embargo. It had an ally in the former Soviet Union but that source of aid has gone. It used to rely heavily on Venezuela for its fuel but that country is now facing its own challenges. A Canadian company, Sherritt, has been helping in recent years to exploit the newly found oil and gas resources not too far from Havana in Matanzas, near Varadero – which is also a major area for all inclusive resorts where we also spent some time last week. We saw the huge chimney of the thermal power plant that now supplies Havana’s electricity – and it’s long plume of particulates. These add to the smoke from the open burning of sugar cane residues in the field after harvest. And the tailpipe emissions from old cars that never had catalytic converters or any emission controls and have now been mostly converted to diesel. I got through four packs of nasal tissues every day while in Havana.

What we did not see – despite the sunshine and strong winds – were any photovoltaic panels or turbines. Someone told us they were in the plan for the future but were currently considered “too expensive”. She also said that Raul Castro has announced his intention to retire next year. There is much uncertainty over what may follow.

My wish is that the people of Cuba will benefit from the long overdue improvement in relations with the United States as a result of President Obama’s decision to end the embargo. The main immediate effect of which was to end the opportunity of travel for Cubans to the US as refugees. Increasing uncertainty is unfortunately a major plank in the policy of the current occupant of the White House.

Cuba is a poor country with many people who are underemployed: well educated but unable to find a way to utilise their knowledge, skills and willingness to work hard. Every embassy and consulate I saw in Havana is heavily fortified, not because Cuba is unsafe but to deter those who might climb their fences to secure sanctuary.

My wish is for a better future for Cubans that is not dependent on the individual generosity of tourists, or the investment of more Canadian money in exploiting fossil fuels. A future which offers dignity for all. And safety in their homes. Not a precarious perch in a crumbling ruin. I wish I knew of a way of getting this message out to more people. I wish we could persuade our governments that waiting for chaos to break out – or even provoking it – and then offering shelter to a tiny percentage of the resulting refugees is not a tenable foreign policy option. That foreign aid is not just an easy target for spending cuts to allow tax breaks for the wealthy. That countries like Cuba are not simply a useful place to conduct torture that would be illegal at home – and is anyway ineffective.

My wish is that countries like Canada and the United States will do something to tackle the gross inequalities that now characterize our world. Symbolized by the wealthy old white guy enjoying his expensive lunch while a young woman looks out from her window a few feet away and wonders what she will do next.


Afterword

Much later in the same day I wrote this piece my partner found an article by Michael J Totten in World Affairs entitled “The Once Great City of Havana” 3 December 2013. It is a Long Read but very thought provoking.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 8, 2017 at 11:55 am

WPC: A Good Match

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via Photo Challenge: A Good Match

As soon as I saw the title of the photo challenge I knew what the photo would be

Us in the Musee Carnavalet

Taken in the garden of the Musee Carnavalet in Paris on May 21, 2012 by my sister Rosemary and hitherto only available to friends and family but made public for the first time.

A Good Match indeed. We have now been together for over seven years – and it just keeps getting better.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

WPC: Shadow

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via Photo Challenge: Shadow

srees2008_0910_111148aa-copy

I forgot that the Weekly Photo Challenge had been moved from Friday to Wednesday – but apparently it is “open all week” so here is my contribution.

The location is one of the former railway trestles across the Myra Canyon near Kelowna BC. After the tracks were removed the right of way became a long distance walking/cycling trail. The picture was taken around midday so the length of the shadow is not produced by early or late sunshine but the height of the trestle. It is indeed a long way down.

They have their own blog too

Looking through some of the other submissions, I noticed that other people post more than one picture, and my flickr stream has more than one candidate.

The first is more recent, from last year in Chicago

Chicago

tram shadow

This one is from 2012: the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York City – and the one below is the same year but closer to home

Us

 

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

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WPC: Ambience

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I asked my partner if she could think of one of my photos that had “ambience”. I used my best French accent on that word which must have influenced her choice. This is the interior of the Palais du Louvre in Paris. This is part of Louis Napoleon’s apartment – his personal quarters – decorated at enormous expense to the state, and defining the taste of the Second Empire.

I think it’s ghastly.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

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Photo Challenge: Relax

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via Photo Challenge: Relax

Staking a claim

The notes I wrote under the picture

A palapa with a beach view, no organized games in sight or earshot, frequent waitress service, space to move the loungers as the shadow moves

Serenis Resort, Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Relax

Written by Stephen Rees

December 2, 2016 at 9:28 am

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Photo Challenge: Magic

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via Photo Challenge: Magic

No, sorry I do not believe in magic. When I go to a magic show, all I want to do is figure out how the illusion is achieved. I did a search on my photostream, and the only references to magic that I found was my own reaction to an early effort at stitching pictures together – which at that time seemed almost magical to me – “hey, you can’t see the join” – but now my iPhone 6 can do that for me!

In 2010 I went on my first cruise, to the Caribbean, and in St Maarten we berthed next to a Disney ship.

Goofy touch up

I guess that’s as close to Magic as I am going to get.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm

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