OK, this week I’m going to introduce a feature that will bring some topicality to the blog. It’s an extra dimension that will certainly make it more interesting to write – and hopefully also to read.
The idea is to grab certain trends and stories related to areas and places bisected by the Trans-Siberian Railway, giving quick summaries and some links to news (or other) articles elsewhere. Basically some tasters and pointers, then, with the means to find out more if you’re interested. It’s all about “movements” that crop up occasionally, showing a shift in one direction or another; a bunch of related tales that represent a certain tendency…
For starters: a trend that seems depressingly familiar. It involves indigenous (read: poor) populations trailing in the wake of the developed world’s model of commerce/lifestyle/values – and subsequently ending up in projects, settlements, reservations, shanty towns, slums…
Here are the links, all from the Guardian’s website:
All of these stories indicate a nosedive for the traditional nomadic lifestyle of native Mongolians, as desertification and brutal winters decimate their livestock (and therefore livelihoods), forcing one quarter of the population into gers (yurts) and makeshift refuges outside Ulaanbaatar.
There are some amazing facts and figures: 10 million dead animals; the nomadic population surviving -50°C winters in essentially medieval conditions; 90% of the land made barren by desertification; pregnant women walking miles to hospital… It goes on.
In Mongolia, it seems, the impoverished just “exist”, while the country’s rich mineral assets are sold out from under them and the incoming profits return over their heads – both out of reach for those on the ground.
Incidentally, in a weird parallel, shanty-towns have started to appear in the affluent first world too. Witness the “tent cities”: politically-embarrassing fungi on the outskirts of affluent American cities, popping up ever since the greed bubble burst and those who’d bought into the myth began choking on it. Maybe one day those who had-it-and-lost-it will come face to face those who never-had-it-in-the-first-place, in a tent city no-man’s land somewhere: in the USA, Mongolia or some other part of the world…
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 35)
On the execution of the Romanovs, the last Royal family of Russia, and the four servants who were put to death with them in the cellar in Ekaterinburg.
[Photo by Mark Heard]