goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Thirsty?

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.                                                                                                                                                                                  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Have you begun to notice that we have a problem with water?  Or several, actually.

First, there is shortage. California, for example, is in the third year of a drought and reservoirs are drawn to lows never seen since the days they were first being filled. lake shastaaThis photo, taken by Graham while I was driving on I-5 in northern California, shows how that the water level in Shasta Lake is about 50 feet below normal. The local tourism newspaper is trying to put a good spin on it saying that fishing is great since the fish are all concentrated in the areas of deep pools. In reality, this is a sign of bad trouble.

Agricultural production in California provides nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts consumed in the United States. This year farmers are finding the reservoirs are unreliable so much of the water is coming from underlying aquifers.  UC Davis, the premier agricultural college in the state, warns that continued use of the aquifers means it will be dry within 2 years.

No water……for much of California.  The results of that are going to be horrible.Folsam damElsewhere, like Charleston, West Virginia, throughout much of the states that have fracking, and other areas where industrial dumping occurs, ground water and surface water is becoming more and more polluted with hazardous effects on health.  In West Virginia the dump may have been accidental but as soon as the corporation declared bankruptcy and reorganized with the expedited assistance of the court system, the collusion of the people in power was shown. There seems to be little concern about safety of our water. I wonder what the people in power are thinking; do they think they are immune?WV water

Hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas occurs in many states and although the mining companies have always assured people that there is no danger, many environmental changes have occurred in those areas since the operations began.  Besides the increased earthquakes throughout Oklahoma, the chief concern is ground water pollution as well as surface water pollution. The EPA has been conducting a study with results expected this year but many other organizations have documented the substantial decline in safe drinking water in those areas.  In addition, many of the areas where companies have enticed landowners for fracking leases are agricultural, which means pollution effects on animals and crops are also beginning to be identified. That means the food you purchase to eat, even if it is organic, could be affected if it originates close to a well.Fracking Farmland 615px

If you shrug this off, thinking you are not affected since you don’t live in these areas, you need to think again. Perhaps you don’t cook so you don’t purchase fresh produce. Perhaps you don’t eat almonds or walnuts or other nuts. Or perhaps you just don’t do the grocery shopping. Prices in supermarkets around the country are showing higher prices for fruit, vegetable and nuts because of the long term drought in California.

Please recall one fact you probably learned in school. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, with 90% of that in the oceans. All water that flows over the land ends up in the ocean. All aquifers have some connection as well.  If you use well water, you are pulling from an aquifer. When you water your lawn, when you take a shower, that water goes into the ground via a septic system or it enters the sewage treatment system and therefore flows back out into a stream or river.   As waters mix with contaminants, it gets polluted.

 

ground water polutionThink you can manage by using bottled water? Did you know that no one checked the quality of the water in those bottles so it actually may be more polluted than your tap water. I won;t even talk about the wasteful use of the plastic bottles right now.

waTERThe bottom line: there are many countries in other parts of the world, places we consider Third World, who have long been suffering from a shortage of safe drinking water. The United States is rapidly falling into their level. Some areas of the nation have 5-30% of the people receiving polluted water through their public water supply.

Thirsty?

 


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World Class Wonder

He was so deeply in love with his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, that when she died in 1631 giving birth to her 19th child at age 41, Shah Jahan was devastated. His heart broke and later one of his sons felt his reasoning was also questionable as he had spent down the kingdom’s treasury to build this exquisite mausoleum to honor her.DSCF6038

DSCF6123DSCF6028It took over 22 years and 20,000 workers to erect the structure. The Taj Mahal is made with the hardest marble found in the world, finer than Italy’s Carrara marble used by Michelangelo in his carvings. Makrana marble, quarried about 300 kilometers west of Agra in the Indian state of Rajastan, is so hard and nonporous that today it is marketed for table tops, knowing that no spilled foods will stain it. In the Taj Mahal the white stone gleams in the sun.  More than 1000 elephants were needed to transport the marble to the construction site. Red sandstone is also included in the site. This was brought from the area in Rajastan near Fatehpur Sikri (more on that site in another blog). DSCF6019a

The marble is so hard that chiseling it is difficult, but much of the surface is inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones also from Rajastan.  DSCF6055Many were stolen by the British during their administrative rule of India, and even today people try to remove pieces. There is a security screening upon entering the grounds and many items, such as nail files, are not permitted. DSCF6084

Postcard-Shot-of-the-Tomb-of-ITimad-Ud-Daulah-aka-Baby-Taj-Agra-2012-05-16Modeled on the Moghul architecture of the “Baby Taj”, the tomb of Mirza Ghias Beg located across the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal has complete symmetry not only in the mauseleum building but on the grounds with the surrounding structures. As a burial site, it also has a mosque and the site is closed on Fridays for the Muslim Sabbath prayers. DSCF6080 The corresponding matching building has no current function.DSCF6066

The only item inside the Taj Mahal that is out of symmetry is the grave of Shah Jahan. Deposed by his son after he learned his father planned to build another matching structure in black marble across the  River from the Taj, the Shah was placed in “house arrest” in the Red Fort down the river from the Taj. There, he could gaze longingly on his love’s tomb until his death a few years later. DSCF6073

Some of the design took careful engineering. For example, the 99 names of Allah inlayed in Arabic script around the entrance, grows in size as it rises so it appears to be the same size to the human eye.

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DSCF6058DSCF6069As you approach the upper level of the Taj shoes must be removed. Our guide, was able to obtain shoe covers, another option, for us, in deference to the rising temperatures (probably about 90 degrees at 10am) and the fact that most Americans are not used to walking barefoot.DSCF6081

There is concern about the future of the Taj Mahal. Built next to the river on a piered foundation, low water levels (caused by reduced monsoons as well as increased water usage by area industry) are weakening the structure. In addition, because of the factories, Agra has some of the worse air pollution in India and although the marble is hard, chemical effects on the stone are beginning to be seen.DSCF6049

This UNESCO World Heritage site is considered to be one of the seven modern wonders of the world. I heard many in our tour group say this was the highlight of the tour for them. For Lisa and me, it was a wonderful beginning of a day that only got better.DSCF6039