The Story of the Aral Sea

April 2010

One Sunday afternoon in Kazakhstan last August, a group of fishermen met for a celebration. They were on the shore of the North Aral Sea. They brought food to eat, and they had races and throwing contests. Afterwards, they relaxed, telling stories and singing songs about the Aral Sea and fishing and how much they loved both of these things.

Detroit: then and now

The city of Detroit, in the USA, was once compared to Paris. It had a broad river, smart streets and historically important architecture. Then, in the 20th century, it became ‘Motor City’. For a time, most of the world’s cars were made here. There was regular work and a good salary in the motor industry. A worker at one of the car factories could own a home, plus a boat, maybe even a holiday cottage. Some say America’s middle class was born in Detroit – new highways certainly made it easy for workers to move from the city centre to the suburbs in the 1950s.

Food for a community

Milpa Alta is a region of twelve villages and towns to the south of Mexico City. In Milpa Alta, traditions are still very important and one of the most famous traditional events is a community meal. It takes place every Christmas and is called La Rejunta. More than a meal, it’s a feast, where about sixty thousand tamales and fifteen thousand litres of hot chocolate are made and consumed. Tamales are made from corn. They are typical of the region:  the name Milpa Alta means ‘High cornfield’.

Siberia's medical train

The famous Trans-Siberian railway line runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, but there’s another line about 650 kilometres north of the Trans-Siberian. This is the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and a special train, the Matvei Mudrov medical train, travels along its 4,000 kilometres. The train, with its twelve to fifteen doctors, spends a day in each of the small towns and villages along the BAM. The inhabitants of these remote places depend on this service because they mostly don’t have regular access to any other health care.

The first year of life

A newborn baby can see, hear and feel. By the age of five, a child can talk, ride a bike and invent imaginary friends. How does this development happen? We don’t understand the way language, thinking and planning develop very well. Now scientists are using new technology to ‘see’ into children’s brains. And they are discovering new information about the way a baby’s brain develops.

Life on the Seine

On the Île de la Cité, in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, is a bronze compass set in the pavement. From here, point zero, all distances from Paris are measured. And at the heart of Paris is the River Seine. ‘For Parisians the Seine is a compass, a way to know where you are,’ says art historian Marina Ferretti. The river flows through and around the lives of Parisians and is the stage on which they live their lives.

A long and healthy life?

How long will a baby born today live? 100 years? 120 years? Scientists are studying genes that could mean long life for us all.

There are already many, many people who have passed the landmark age of 100. In fact, there are now so many healthy, elderly people that there’s a new term for them: the wellderly. These are people over the age of 80 who have no diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes and have never taken medicines for these conditions.

Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle: National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
Sylvia Earle was called a "Hero for the Planet" by Time magazine. She’s an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer.

Wild weather

What is happening to our weather?

What is ‘extreme’ weather? Why are people talking about it these days? ‘Extreme’ weather is an unusual weather event  such as rainfall, a drought or a heat wave in the wrong place or at the wrong time. In theory, they are very rare. But these days, our TV screens are constantly showing such extreme weather events. Take just three news stories from 2010: 28 centimetres of rain fell on Rio de Janeiro in 24 hours, Nashville, USA, had 33 centimetres of rain in two days and there was record rainfall in Pakistan.

Return to River Town

In 1996, Peace Corps volunteer Peter Hessler arrived in Fuling, a quiet town on the Yangtze, to teach English. He went back recently to find the landscape and his former students transformed.

If Statues Could Talk

How did the Easter Island statues move? Archaeologists are still trying to work out how - and what their story really means.

On a winter night last June, José Antonio Tuki, a 30-year-old artist on Easter Island, sat on Anakena beach and stared at the enormous human statues there – the moai. The statues are from four feet tall to 33 feet tall. Some weigh more than 80 tons. They were carved, a long time ago, with stone tools and then they were moved up to 11 miles to the beach. Tuki stares at their faces and he feels a connection. ‘This is something that was produced by my ancestors,’ he says. ‘How did they do it?’

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