September 5, 2009

Back at Sonoma

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It has been a couple of weeks now since I have returned from the 99th voyage of Semester at Sea. Since arriving back at Sonoma, being home has a fresh meaning with a different edge. My seeing the world from a variety of other less resource-intensive cultures has added a bitter harshness to my view of the often wasteful, self-centered ways of this country. Feeling so comfortable in the urban fabric of the less-auto-dominated European cities, seeing Spain's pioneering work in wind and solar thermal development, or using the intermodal transportation systems of Istanbul can make coming home feel uncomfortably foreign and our country feel strangely behind the times.

And then there is another story about being back home. Being away gave me an awakened appreciation of what we have in the States as well as in our home towns. Basic civil liberties, access to information, and clean water at the tap, for example, are now more fully appreciated. I missed the summer in Sonoma, but being so far away from here helped remind me again of the beauty of this place as well as how wonderful it is to be welcomed home by your old friends and a familiar community.

A voyage with Semester at Sea is certainly a life altering experience. It will change your view of where you really live, who you really are, and what really matters in life. While the rawness of the voyage experience is beginning to wear off as the days pass, even two weeks after leaving the ship, when all is silent, I can hear far in the distance a blast of her horn that seems to originate from somewhere deep in my chest.

Shortly after our return I was interviewed on PBS radio.

Posted by rohwedde at 1:57 PM

August 21, 2009

The Thrill of Bill

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We are headed into Virginia, just ahead of a hurricane named Bill. The ship is rocking and rolling, but we are told by our captain not to worry, and we trust him. Never a dull moment with Semester at Sea!

Posted by rohwedde at 5:52 PM

August 16, 2009

Oh Morocco

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It has been a while since my last post due the fact that we got lost in Morocco. Intentionally. We left the Semester at Sea crowd and took the first train out of Casablanca to have a few days of R&R, family style. My wife Shawn has been to Morocco, and she knew where to go --- Fes. Fes el-Bali (Old Fes) is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world and according to the Lonely Planet Guide, the most interesting in Morocco, and with the exception of Marrakesh, Cairo and Damascus, nothing remotely comparable anywhere else in the Arab world.

Its narrow winding alleys and covered bizaars are crammed with every conceivable sort of craft workshop, restaurant, meat, fruit and vegetable market, mosque and medersa, as well as extensive dye pits and tanneries -- a veritable assault on the senses as you squeeze past recalcitrant donkeys and submit to the sounds and smells of this jostling city.

From camel heads hanging on hooks, to young men waist deep in leather dye pits, to olives as far as the eye can see, to colorful spices piled high, to incredible ceramics and Berber rugs (yea we bought one), this place was INCREDIBLE.

We retreated from the hustle and bustle by staying in a beautiful riad. From the outside you would think this place was a filthy cave. Once you got past the elaborate wooden door, you opened into a spectacular courtyard complete with a tinkling fountain, intricate mosaic work, and an open ceiling filled with daylight by day and starlight by night. We drank more fresh-squeezed orange juice and ate more olives in four days than we had consumed the previous year, basked in the call to prayer (5 times a day), and yet again were reminded of the blessings we sometimes take for granted back home.

A personal highlight was my last day in Fes when I decided to visit the public bath. In Fes few folks have baths or hot water in their homes, so once a week they go to the public bath where wood-fired hot water is offered up in buckets and BIG guys scrub/massage off years worth of dead skin cells, and leave you feeling cleaner than you knew you could be. It was wonderful to literately and figuratively hang out with the local men as they argued, laughed, prayed and solved the world's problems while getting clean. They smiled and laughed at me. It seemed to be a combination of "good for you, you ventured where most tourists don't go" and "what, are you crazy, you shouldn't be HERE." Regardless of their point of view, they were kind, helped me navigate the process, and touched their hearts (a typically greeting in Morocco) when I finally headed back to the riad.

Morocco got to me more than any of the other places on this voyage. I felt at home here, even thought I was clearly a foreigner. Strange but true. Of all the places on this voyage, these people have the least, and yet, they seemed to be the richest. This has been a consistent unfolding for me on this voyage. Morocco sealed the deal.

(and a colleague of mine did a simple calculation that helped me gain even more perspective about relative impact -- an earlier blog topic. The fuel each of us used for this voyage equals over 10 years of total energy use by a typical Moroccan)

And now we are headed "home." It's strange to feel that on some level, coming home will feel like returning to a foreign land.

To check out a PHOTO MONTAGE from Morocco, just click on the Oh Morocco link under the photo below. Enjoy!

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Oh Morocco

Posted by rohwedde at 2:11 PM

August 5, 2009

Relative Impact, the lessons of more and less

littlefp.jpgIn my sustainable communities class we are exploring in depth the relative impact of the lifestyles and economies of the countries on our voyage. In particular we are focusing on a key indicator of sustainability known as an ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land and water (measured in hectares) required to provide our needs and process our wastes. At these links you can find out your own footprint or learn the sophisticated methodology behind the concept. One thing we have clearly learned on this voyage is that not everyone has the same impact. In Egypt, we all had a look (perhaps at times it was a stare) at people living on far less than most Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Canadians, and other folks in the so-called "developed" world. We also learned some other lessons about living life to the fullest, regardless of your so-called standard of living. It's hard to summarize all that we learned given the limits of words in a blog entry, but I'll give it a try. Admittedly this is an over-simplification, but I hope to convey the essence of our lessons on relative impact.

In Egypt we learned that people who have next to nothing are often the most willing to share everything they have. Ironically, it seems back home the folks who have the most are often the last to share. In addition, and this is the main point, people living on far less than we do still have rich, meaningful, bountiful, and complex lives. More money and stuff clearly doesn't equal more laughter, good will, and happiness. It's not that the folks in Egypt wouldn't like to have more money and stuff. They would. But in the meantime, this lack of money and material goods clearly doesn't get in the way of living well.

Here's another lesson we've learned. People who are not the cause of the problem sometimes are hit the hardest by the problem. For example, while Egyptians contribute very little to greenhouse gases, because of the impact of climate change on the Nile River Valley (the economic and cultural heart of this country), they are disproportionately suffering from the collective impacts of all of our inefficient, polluting ways (by "our" I'm referring to the 20% of us in the developed world who produce 80% of the greenhouse gases). Here's a message that Egyptians would like us to carry to the rest of the world: please consider them and the impacts of our collective choices when we develop energy policies, purchase a new car (which they can never afford), buy a refrigerator, or elect a president. It may seem hard to imagine, but their lives are directly impacted by our poor choices. What is true in Egypt in terms of disproportionate impact is also true, by the way, for indigenous people living for example in the Amazon Basin or in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, back home, many folks in the U.S. are skipping through life, often unsatisfied with what they have in spite of their HUGE ecological footprint. If everyone on the planet had the same footprint that we have, then we would need another half dozen planets. Last time I checked we only had one. When you travel around the world, the words "we" and "them" seem to lose their meaning. But if we want to make a distinction along these lines, perhaps we should remember the words of Pogo. "We have met the enemy, and they are us." I'm as guilty as the rest of us in the developed world, so I'm in no place to cast the first stone.

I will cast out this idea however. While some in the 'sophisticated, educated North' seem to think we need to teach those people in the less developed, ignorant South a thing or two, well, I beg to differ. Egypt and other developing nations do have a lot of work to do in order to provide a higher standard of living for their people, and they could use our help. Yet when those of us on this voyage experienced the lives of the people in Egypt, we found that they had so much more to teach and offer us. It was a simple yet critical lesson about really appreciating what you have and living a life where less can actually mean more. Perhaps in the midst of looking at their daily reality, we actually saw a hazy reflection of ourselves, and in doing so received a far clearer glimpse into a profound truth to be learned for our own lives.

And for those of you interested in the gory details of relative planetary impact, in addition to the sites noted above, check out this little chart that tells the story quite clearly. It shows the per capital ecological footprint (in hectares) for each country on our voyage. 2.2 hectares/person is the global biological capacity. As you can see, before we hit Egypt, every country we had visited is operating in excess of their "fair share." The final act, the USA, will be the grand finale in our wake up call about relative impact.

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P.S. No lecture in the next entry, just some favorite photos from Egypt. Stay tuned!

Posted by rohwedde at 12:54 AM

August 3, 2009

A Little Perspective, Thanks to Egypt

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I just spent a few days in Egypt, primarily in and around Cairo. These few days have given me some precious perspective on many aspects of my life, but especially as it relates to recent employment and financial events back at SSU.

Thanks to a satellite internet connection, I can read the latest news back home and how most everyone is freaking out about the crisis state of public higher education. Some of my colleagues are appalled because most of us at SSU are being furloughed two days per month with a related 10% loss in pay. We get to keep our jobs, and 90% of our salary, as well our health, vision and dental benefits, and our retirement package. Over the net I read the words 'pain' and 'suffering' being written a lot in reference to this unprecedented hardship.

Thanks to Egypt, at the moment I can keep this all in perspective. Here are a few reasons why.

In Egypt, someone in my 'high income position' would make about $600/month. So my less than 10% cut is actually more than what a full professor in Egypt would make in an entire year (with no benefits or retirement package, by the way).

Back home, well over 50% of young adults have some college education from a subsidized public higher education system (thank you American tax payers). Here in Egypt 30% of the adult population is illiterate and students are only entitled to subsidized public education through grade nine. We would also all be shocked to see the state of these K - 9 public schools (as well as the salaries of the teachers).

Back home, we're offering 'cash for clunkers' and the government is giving a subsidy to folks who purchased gas guzzling cars so they can now buy a new, slightly more efficient vehicle. (Hey, I know, it's good for the environment --- and oh yea, the auto industry.) Here the air quality in downtown Cairo is often more than 100 fold higher than acceptable world standards, with more old, funky, exhaust belching cars hitting the congested roadways every day. Nobody is helping you pay for a nicer car. Most people can't afford any car.

Back home the economic crisis means folks aren't eating out as much. Here, many people spend much of their day trying to find work so that they might be able to eat tomorrow.

Thanks to Egypt, for me, 'pain and suffering' are relative terms. Those of us back home needing a little perspective might want to take a quick trip to most any developing country around the world, and witness their pain and suffering. You'll have to see it first hand, because the people on the streets only know it to be this way, so they're not likely to be complaining about it in the press.

I really don't mean to minimize or trivialize the economic situation at my campus or in my country as a whole. We do have our problems, and we will all have to adjust. But in this moment, I think my Egypt-colored perspective is an unexpected blessing. Instead of worrying about my so-called pain, hardship and suffering back home, thanks to this experience with Semester at Sea my heart and mind are instead more appropriately focused on the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I."

Posted by rohwedde at 10:16 AM

July 29, 2009

A Glimpse into the Heart of Bulgaria

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Based on experiences limited to the port city of Varna, it might be easy to typecast Bulgaria as a just another former soviet territory struggling with its' self identity and trying to make sense of a free market economy. After a trip to the rural countryside however, a far richer story emerges. It's a story of people deeply connected to their historical roots, their local community, and what today we might call sustainable living.

As part of an SAS trip to a small village on the Doubroudza plain, considered the breadbasket of Bulgaria because of the many grain varieties grown in the area, we awakened to a glimpse into the heart of this country and the depth of spirit found in its' people. Beginning with our welcome by the town mayor, we knew this wasn't going to be another touristic mob scene. People on the street stopped to greet us, shake our hand, look into our eyes, and welcome us to their special place. We didn't understand their words, but their actions clearly communicated that we were welcome here.

After a visit to the 'community center,' where villagers share books, art, theater, dance and stories, we visited the mayor's office, the local church (where we were moved by hymns sung by the priest), and finally the mayor's home. There we were treated to a 14-course feast of local foods (many of which were grown in their organic garden), prepared in a wood oven, and cooked by the local village women. These same women also shared their circle dances, native crafts, twinkling smiles, lively music, and silly jokes. Each of on this trip came away saying "now this is what Semester at Sea is all about" -- a glimpse into the lives of everyday people where we saw not only the uniqueness of their culture and earth-based living, but also a reflection of our own visions of a slower, more 'simple' life focused on the importance of family, friends, rich conversation, healthy food, and a pace of life that allows us to savor it all.

Here is a short photo montage to give you a taste of this visit. Just click on the 'Glimpse into the Heart' link under the photo below.

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Glimpse into the Heart

Posted by rohwedde at 4:07 AM

July 27, 2009

Cruisin the Bosphorus

The Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait, is a strait that forms the boundary between the European side of Turkey and its Asian counterpart. It is the world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. With a backdrop of incredible Mosques and wind generators ashore as well as a foreground of oil tankers headed to the Black Sea, navigating this straight is a magical experience. Here are two photos to give you a geographical sense of exactly where are located. The top photo from Google Earth shows the our general locale (within the dotted square. Note the Italy boot on the left). The second photo zooms in a bit to give you a sense of the unique physical quality of this narrow passage. After we left Istanbul we navigated through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Tomorrow we will arrive in Varna, Bulgaria.

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The Bosphorus thanks to Google Earth

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A NASA photo, the Bosphorus up close

And here is a photo montage to give you a sense of this amazing straight with parting glimpses of Istanbul and environs. Click on the 'Crusin the Bosphorus" link below the photo.

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Crusin the Bosphorus

Posted by rohwedde at 11:44 PM

July 23, 2009

Turkey was Wild and Wonderful

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We just spent the last few days in Istanbul and in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey. The adventure started with a guest lecture and field trip for the students in my Sustainable Communities class. Professor Kevser Ustandag, whom I have corresponded with over the past few months, came on the ship along with five of her students to present on 'Sustainability in Istanbul.' After their presentation we all went to her university for a brief tour and then by public ferry to the car-free Princess Islands. There we toured the island by horse-drawn carriage. It was a fantastic experience for my students and I to connect with Turkish colleagues interested in planning for sustainability and other matters "green." To see a short video about Dr. Ustandag and her work here in Istanbul, check out this clip called Taking a Bite Out of Traffic in Istanbul Turkey.

We also had a wonderful time checking out the highlights of Istanbul, including the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bizarre, the Spice Market, and the wonderful land and sea transit system. We LOVED the food and thoroughly enjoyed people watching in this amazing city with over 12 million proud citizens.

Two of our days here were spent in Central Turkey at a World Heritage Site known as Cappadocia. The Cappadocia region is largely underlain by deposits from ancient volcanoes that erupted approximately 9 to 3 million years ago (late Miocene to Pliocene epochs). The rocks of Cappadocia have eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms. The volcanic deposits are soft rocks that the people of the villages at the heart of the Cappadocia Region carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries. Simply amazing!

For a 4 minute video montage of our adventures in Istanbul and Cappadocia, check out the link entitled Wild and Wonderful under the photo below.

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Wild and Wonderful

Posted by rohwedde at 11:01 AM

July 17, 2009

Oh yea, Athens

In addition to our time on the isle of Santorini, we also spent a day in Athens. Loved their new metro, checked out the stellar archeological museum, did all the typical tourist stuff (e.g. the Acropolis), and spent a lovely evening at a VIP dinner on ship with officials from the American University of Greece (who are, BTW, in the midst of developing a new environmental studies major). Click on the "Around Athens" link below the photo for a quick (one minute) montage.

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Around Athens

Posted by rohwedde at 12:44 PM

July 16, 2009

Greece was Sweet

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This was a delightful port of call. We spent our first few days on the Greek Isle of Santorini. Shortly after we arrived we jumped off the MV Explorer and jumped on to a high-speed ferry to this incredible island. As you can surmise from the photo below, Santorini was once a volcanoe. The volcanic eruption of Thera was perhaps the most famous single event in the Aegean before the fall of Troy. This may have been one of the largest volcanic eruptions on Earth in the last few thousand years.

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Satellite Image of Santorini

Our time here was as kicked back as it can be when you're parenting a 3-yr old. We basked in the glory of a lack of Semester at Sea students, soaked in the view of iconic architecture and azure blue waters, swam in a groovy little pool perched on the cliff side, munched on fantastic local cuisine, and generally recharged the proverbial psychic batteries. They say that once you come here, you never want to leave. Now we get it.

Just click on the link below the photo for a 3-minute photo montage of the Flavors of Santorini.

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The Flavors of Santorini

Posted by rohwedde at 11:51 AM

July 12, 2009

Sea Olympics

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It's appropriate for the sea Olympics to occur today since tomorrow we will arrive in Athens, Greece. As you might imagine, at sea we have adopted events that are slightly different from most of those in the real Olympics. For example, I just returned from judging the lip syncing contest. My attempt at impersonating Randy Jackson ("dog, check it out, you could sing the phone book") didn't go over too well, but hey, I'm a old college professor. I'll stick to lecturing about climate change and sustainable communities. Other events include jeopardy, tug-o-war, 20-minute makeover, and my personal favorite, synchronized swimming. To give you a flavor of this last event, here is the latest photo montage. Just click on the 'Synchronized Swimming Event" link below the photo. Enjoy!

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Synchronized Swimming Event

Posted by rohwedde at 7:09 AM

July 11, 2009

A Taste of Croatia

Tomorrow we sail for Greece, but before we hoist anchor, here is a two minute Quicktime movie of some images from beautiful Croatia. Just click on the link below the photo entitled "A Taste of Croatia." Enjoy.

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A Taste of Croatia

Posted by rohwedde at 1:02 PM

July 10, 2009

Croatia, It Will Amaze Ya

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Our next stop on this amazing journey is Dubrovnik, Croatia. On the way here we passed the active Mt. Etna on Sicily as well as those ubiquitous oil tankers. Located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Croatia has been a special experience on many levels.

Since Dubrovnik is home to our ship's captain, even our arrival began with a special welcome. As we navigated past small islands into the port, at one point the ship stopped and her horn was sounded. This was the captain's unique form of "honey, I'm home." And in reply, from a small villa on shore a flag was waived by the captain's wife, welcoming us all to their home-sweet-home.

Croatia's coastal beauty is well known by Europeans who flock to her shores in droves to enjoy the azure blue waters, historical architecture, and a relief from the intense inland heat. While definitely a tourist destination, so far we've thoroughly enjoyed the World Heritage site of the Old City (still riddled with bombing evidence from the war here in the early 1990s), the incredible mountains of nearby Montenegro (the newest country in Europe since recently separating from Serbia), and especially kayaking around the small islands nestled throughout the Adriatic Sea.

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The Old City in Dubrovnik, heavily bombed in the early 1990s
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The Adriatic Sea is FINE with me

Posted by rohwedde at 7:02 AM

July 8, 2009

A Taste of Italy

Here's a four minute visual round up of some favorite photos from our time in Italy, featuring everything from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, to Ryder's first taste of Italian gelato and wine, to a little island just off the coast from Naples. Just click the link under the photo below. Enjoy!

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A Taste of Italy

Posted by rohwedde at 9:34 AM

July 5, 2009

Buongiorno Italia

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Italy has been full spectrum; a combination of big city intensity and small island tranquility. We've embraced the slow food movement that was founded in this country by taking long slow meals, long slow walks down winding lanes to who knows where, and generally just reminding ourselves that the fast-food, dine-and-dash rhythm we are so accustom to back home isn't the only way to live.

Italy has some 'issues.' They import over 90% of their oil, Rome and Naples at times seemed mostly dirty and crowded, people in crowds tended to be focused on nothing more than their "world of one." Yet beyond the rich history and incredible art that everyone is familiar with, we came to relish the small island or country village 'way' of Italy. A way that celebrates family, friends, good food, good wine, and most of all, taking the time to really savor it all.

We sail tonight for Croatia!

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Island of Procida

Posted by rohwedde at 11:15 AM

July 2, 2009

What you See when at Sea

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Oil Tanker at Gibraltar

After fueling in Gibraltar (yea, right next to THE rock), we entered the Mediterranean. When fueling up we saw dozens of oil tankers all around us, offloading oil shipped in from lands far away. As we travel across these seas, the one thing we can almost always see around us, is an oil tanker. No doubt about it, the life blood of industrialized countries is pumping through the shipping lanes/veins of this planet. The U.S. imports over 60% of its oil, the top ten countries importing oil to the U.S. include Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, Russia, Iraq, Algeria, and Brazil. When we fill up our tanks, we should all be reminded that the price we pay at the pump reflects few of the true costs, be they social (human rights in Saudi Arabia), political (is Hugo Chavez in Venezuela our good buddy?), military (if military costs of defending Persian Gulf oil imports were added to the price gas it would increase by over $8/gallon), or environmental (do you know about the environmental impacts of oil drilling on natural systems and indigenous people in the Niger Delta?). Beyond the hydrocarbons, we should all be reminded of what we are really pumping into our tanks. Everyday we support actions around the world through our purchasing decisions, whether we see them or not.

Posted by rohwedde at 2:02 AM

June 28, 2009

A Taste of Spain

While we wish we could send you the smells, sounds and tastes of Spain through cyberspace, this three minute visual montage of some of our favorite personal photos will have to do. You'll need Quicktime installed on your computer to check out this little ditty. You'll have to imagine the Flamenco music in the background because music files are too large to upload given our limited bandwidth through the ship's satellite connection. Just click on the "Short Taste of Spain" link below. Next stop, Italy!

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Short Taste of Spain

Posted by rohwedde at 5:39 AM

June 24, 2009

Bienvenido a Espana

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This morning we arrived in Cadiz, Spain. It's the first stop on our voyage this summer, and so far it is a BIG hit. Cadiz is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly all of southwestern Europe.

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Cadiz, Spain

The old city is a classic pre-auto design. Folks live in flats over stores, restaurants, and other commercial developments (located on the street level). Plazas and cafes are seemingly everywhere. Many streets are car free. Today in the U.S. we might call this "New Urbanism." It's hardly new, and everyone here seems to love this form of urban design. Life on the streets is both peaceful (let's just sit on this bench and watch the world go by) and electric (live music, flower stands, street performers). While the old city is the focus just off the ship, in the distance we can see the new focus of Spain ... renewable energy. Here are two examples. Not far away (near Sevilla where we will visit tomorrow) is Europe's first commercial solar power plant.

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10 MW Solar Thermal Plant near Sevilla

And from our ship we can see in the distance oodles of wind generators.

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Cadiz "parques eolicos" or wind parks

Spain has become the third largest producer of wind power in the world and has recently begun shutting down their nuclear facilities and replacing them with efficiency, wind and solar. In addition to tapas, siestas, and Flamenco, this region has another "way of being" I think we should all embrace. Ole!

Posted by rohwedde at 12:54 PM

June 23, 2009

Hey, what's your cabin like?

Inquiring minds want to know! We're on the top floor (aka 7th deck) this voyage and have a fantastic cabin. The best way we know to show you what it's like is to direct you to the following four minute YouTube video called 'Cribs'. While this is Archbishop Tutu's crib from Spring 2007, it's exactly like ours in Summer 2009. If you watch the video you'll also see the Archbishop's photo of our son, Ryder James.

Posted by rohwedde at 1:41 PM

June 22, 2009

Just past the Azores

Yesterday we were treated to the sight of land. That thrill of "Land Ho!!" takes on a vibrant new meaning when you have been at sea for six days. I had a tiny taste of what it must have felt like for mariners of days long ago when they got a glimpse of terra firma after being at sea for months (not just our few days). The captain turned the ship off of the previously set course to take us right between the islands, and as the sun faded over the horizon we saw the twinkle of lights signaling the presence of other humans out here in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Here's an image from Google Earth (with the yellow push pin marking our location) to give you a sense of where the Azores are geographically located (they are officially part of Portugal).

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Passing the Azores means we also left the last of the North American Plate and passed into the Eurasian Plate (check your dusty old geology textbooks in case your thinking this is a culinary reference). So I guess you could say we have officially arrived in "Europe." In addition to sighting land, in the last few days we have also seen lots of dolphins, turtles, and Pelagic sea birds (in addition to styrofoam junk, oil tankers, and plastic bottles). Tomorrow is our last day at sea before arriving in Spain! Ole!

Posted by rohwedde at 6:21 AM

June 19, 2009

Rockin on the Atlantic

We have now been at sea for three days, with four more to go before we reach Cadiz, Spain. Today the seas are rockin again (after a short respite yesterday), but we are all adapting (catching each other as we fall down stairways, bouncing off walls, holding the podium as we lecture, etc.) Most of us are fully medicated by now, so we all feel a lot better. Say, if you would like to view a 10 minute "student's tour" of the ship, check out this web site.

Classes have begun (today was day two). I have 30+ students in both of my courses (Sustainable Communities, and Energy, Technology and Society). These are a bright lot (mean GPA = 3.3). While most of them are from the U.S., I also have students from other developed national (e.g. Canada and EU nations) and not-so-developed nations (such as Mongolia). Assigned readings this week include "Science and Technology for Sustainable Well Being" (a recommended read), recently published in Science by John Holdren, former president of the American Academy of Sciences and current science adviser for President Obama. OK, time for dinner. When the seas are calm, here is an example of where we like to dine!

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Posted by rohwedde at 11:28 AM

June 17, 2009

OH, Canada

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So long land, hello Atlantic. 720 students from 300 universities and over a dozen nations are now aboard the MV Explorer. We left the sunny, clear skies of Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday. Leaving behind sobbing parents, land sweet land, the security of known social relationships, language, food, etc. --- they have entered a vast unknown (physically, emotionally, socially, and more). "Lost at sea" may have a new, profound meaning for these young folks (and the rest of us too).

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Today out on the open Atlantic we've encountered some very "rocky" seas. As I'm blogging away I look out over a white cap laden sea and listen to the howling winds swirl around us. Although I'm on the 7th floor (think 7 stories high), every now and then the waves crash over the bow and drench the windows that surround the faculty lounge. As an old kayak buddy use to say, "It's not an adventure until something happens." Well, I think these crazy seas officially count as something happening.

On the ship we all learn about the F word. Flexibility. With classes starting tomorrow, the faculty who haven't sailed before will become profoundly aware that this is a very different experience than they are accustom to on dry land.

Meanwhile, Ryder is already a hit on the ship and seems immune to the rock and roll. He misses Miles our dog and wants to know why he isn't with us, and if can please come on board tomorrow.

Here are a few photos to give you a taste of beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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Posted by rohwedde at 9:54 AM

June 13, 2009

And away we go!

In 10 minutes our voyage officially begins. We sent sail from Boston for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then across the Atlantic to Europe and North Africa. In my belly I feel the swirling concoction of that "night before Christmas" childlike wonderment, deep gratitude for this incredible opportunity, and anxious anticipation of wild adventures yet to come. In the belly of the ship you can hear the engines warming up, ready to propel this magnificent vessel through the waters of the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Come on along! Feel the sea breeze in your face, see the billions of stars above, feel the twinge of excitement of so many young students and young-at-heart faculty and staff, smell the future of dried fish in Greece or the spices in Morocco. Permission to come aboard.

Posted by rohwedde at 7:11 PM

March 20, 2009

We're Sailing Again!

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We're sailing again! This time it will be to Europe and N. Africa. I will be teaching two courses, "Sustainable Communities" and "Energy, Technology and Society." Here is our Summer 2009 itinerary. Stay tuned for on-going blog entries once we set sail on June 12, 2009. Meanwhile, here is a recent article in the Press Democrat describing our voyage.

Posted by rohwedde at 12:09 PM