* Biking the wilds of Bangkok

Bicycling atop a clogged canal, slapped by the branches of tea trees and buzzed by cicadas, is a rejuvenating experience. A little bit jungle, a little bit village, Bang Kra Jao takes only a few minutes to reach from southeastern Bangkok by hopping a longtail boat across the Chao Phraya River. Because it’s a protected conservation area, this spit of greenery …

This piece appeared in the November 2008 issue of Reader’s Digest Asia.

* Saving and selling water

BANGKOK–No doubt government officials have treated the farmers of the Pai River callously, even shamefully. Dam construction firms will probably earn excessive profits. Some animals may suffer and yet more trees will fall.

But probably many compassionate nature lovers would nevertheless conclude that dams and diversion projects in the Salween Basin aren’t so bad in themselves; the problems are in the execution. Progress has a price. Irrigated farms, households and industries elsewhere need water. Mae Hong Son province has water but not many people. The few must sacrifice for the majority. Or must they?  Continue reading

* All about Thai caves

Some of Thailand’s biggest and most beautiful caves are all the more intriguing because they have been discovered only in the past decade. Yet all the superlatives must be couched in tentative terms (such as the “tallest known column”) because there are certainly more caves to be unearthed.

“Discovered” may not be the most accurate term. Frequently local villagers have known for countless generations that a nearby cave existed, but they had never ventured very far within because they feared ghostly occupants or lacked proper lights and equipment. The recent teams of foreign cavers therefore have often found themselves to be the first people to enter an underground chamber with a 15-metre high ceiling or to gaze upon a thousand-year-old flowstone resembling a frozen waterfall. Continue reading

* Phase-out of chemicals wins backing at Bangkok meet

By Susan Cunningham
The Nation

Denmark won allies last week in its drive to accelerate the phase-out of two chemicals that destroy the ozone layer, hydrochloro-fluorocarbons (HCFCs) and the pesticide methyl bromide.

Twenty-two nations, including the entire European Union, pledged here to phase out their production and consumption of HCFCs by the year 2015, 15 years ahead of the present schedule. They had convened for the annual meeting of 123 signatories to the Montreal Protocol. The 22 nations also promised to limit their HCFC use “to absolutely necessary applications” in the run-up to 2015.

HCFCs were introduced as substitutes for the more destructive chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are used as refrigerants and in the manufacture of insulating foams. Beginning in 1987, CFCs were the original target of international efforts–codified under various Montreal Protocol agreements–to protect the atmospheric ozone layer.

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