My favorite element is water.Why, you might ask?The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu sums up my feelings better and more concisely than I ever could.“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”It’s because of this, because of water’s ability to carve out mountainsides and gorges, to at times appear a quiet, idling stream and at others, a raging beast, that draws me to this most essential of elements.As a paddler, surfer, a watersports(wo)man of any sort, you learn to respect nature in ways that are incomparable. The power of the river, the ocean, it’s humbling. The currents that push and pull and drag beneath the surface are in control, not the plastic craft in which you lazily float along.It’s a common misconception though, to think that one is “in control” out on the water. A paddler will never experience the same alpine lake, the same class III run, the same 40-foot waterfall, more than once. Water is always changing, fluctuating, an endless dance of ebb and flow.When I was first learning to kayak, that unpredictability was what scared me most. Over time though, that fear has turned into the thing I yearn for almost daily, that feeling of being slightly in control (in as much as you can at least take strokes when you tell your body to) but mostly along for the ride, in the moment, and working with (not against) the elements.That feeling has been called a lot of things, but I tend to gravitate towards defining it per Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow, “the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.” In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi relates how activities like rock climbing, in affect, have no “purpose” by any traditional sense of the word. Sure, there may be the peak to summit, the unclimbed route to send, but ultimately, most climbers climb for the sake of…climbing. The act of climbing is just a continuation of a greater act, the act of flowing, of continuing to follow that which engages and frees the mind. Csikszentmihalyi says “…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”For me, the river is the course greater than me, but for others it may be the ocean, the rock, the mountain, the forest. The river has been an important part of my existence, from the time I was a child on the banks of the Shenandoah to my late teens and early twenties (ha) guiding rafts in the New River Gorge. Water has taught me how to stay calm amid adversity, to adapt when things don’t go according to plan, and to respect everything, all lessons that can be directly translated into everyday life.If you’ve never kayaked before, you might be wondering how water alone has taught me that. I apologize for the blunt delivery, but the short of it is, I assume, that the river has quite literally handed my ass to me, but in a way that’s constructive, not destructive and which, for some reason semi-unbeknownst to me, keeps me coming back for more. It’s a very complicated feeling, I know.This past weekend I got out on the river for the first time in a couple months to take my Dagger Mamba on its maiden voyage down the Upper Yough. It was just my second time paddling the river here (for a recap of my PFD, click here), so I was still a little uneasy on Friday’s run. But a few rapids into the Miracle Mile, my stiffness faded. I felt in-tune with the boat, the water, and the relationship between the three of us. On Saturday, I paddled the Upper again, this time helping my friend take a first-timer (the ever-entertaining Dr. Mitchell) down. While I very much sympathized with the Doc’s pale, nerve-stricken self (see below, note Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – the comic relief for the day – in the shredder), I felt none of the anxiety I had experienced the day before, feeling, instead, very much at one with the rapids.We need those places, those natural playing fields that allow us brief glimpses of being both scared shitless and on top of the world. The river is one of the few places where I can receive instant feedback, where I can truly gauge if how I’m feeling reflects how I’m paddling. When I’m kayaking, I’m deep in flow. I’m not thinking about the email I forgot to respond to, the looming dreadlines, the negative feedback I received from a reader. I’m not really even thinking about paddling quite honestly. My brain is, actually, pretty quiet. I’m reacting, one stroke at a time, reading the water and adjusting my line to every hole, every rock, every strainer in my way.The challenge for me now is learning how to transition that quiet fortitude into the obstacles of everyday life, like waking up and realizing I don’t have any more coffee. It seems silly, but that totally puts a damper on the day where scraping my head on the riverbed for the millionth time at Powerful Popper doesn’t even phase me…Let’s hear from you!What makes you flow? Where is your place of peace?
By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo April 18, 2017 After a 75-day voyage in which scientists conducted 19 research projects under the Colombian Antarctic Program (PAC, per its Spanish acronym), the Colombian Naval Vessel ARC 20 de julio returned to Cartagena on March 1st, bringing to a close the Third Colombian Antarctic Scientific Expedition “Almirante Padilla.” Ninety-six crewmembers, including scientists, Navy personnel, and support staff, put their skills to the test as they sailed 14,000 nautical miles, overcoming extreme conditions to demonstrate their country’s commitment to environmental protection and the acquisition of knowledge on the white continent. As reported by the Colombian Ocean Commission, the expedition had two components. The first was the ARC 20 de julio, a Colombian ship with 23 researchers aboard. The second was the international cooperation in which 10 researchers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru joined PAC. “Like the other nations of Latin America, we need to have the ability to decide what will happen in Antarctica moving forward,” Captain Ricardo Torres, scientific coordinator of the Third Colombian Antarctic Scientific Expedition, told Diálogo. Science as the pathway As a member of the Antarctic Treaty, Colombia currently has a voice but no vote, which is why it wants to have its status changed. “The key to being able to make the leap from non-consultative to consultative member is precisely to make contributions to science,” Capt. Torres added. The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., in 1959, by 12 countries that determined that the region should be used for peaceful and scientific purposes. Colombia began its observer role in the late 1980s, and since August 2016, it has been an associate member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, according to information published on the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Colombia’s status in the treaty has improved thanks to the scientific expeditions it has achieved, as well as the backing that PAC enjoys from domestic entities, from the Office of the Vice President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Colombian Navy, the Naval Cadet School, the Naval NCO School, the General Maritime Directorate “and all the universities that believe in science beyond borders,” Capt. Torres added. The road to research After setting sail from Cartagena on December 16, 2016, the ARC 20 de julio crossed the Pacific Ocean, covering more than 5,000 nautical miles. It crossed through dangerous places such as the Gulf of Penas and the Drake Passage to reach Antarctica. “We had to navigate very carefully, very surgically, paying a lot of attention,” Captain Jorge Ricardo Espinel, commander of the ARC 20 de julio, told Diálogo. In the Drake Passage, for example, winds can reach more than 50 and 60 knots and waves can rise up to 10 meters. Participating institutions also worked on navigational security, the relationship between South America and Antarctica, climate change, biodiversity, and Antarctic ecosystems, as well as naval and oceanographic engineering, biology, hydrography, meteorology, marine morphology, and biotechnology. One of the clearest contributions the Colombian scientists are hoping to make is to study the relationships between Antarctica and tropical seas, availing themselves of the knowledge they already have about both. It was essential for researchers to have use of the ARC 20 de julio ship because it has been customized to remain out of port for prolonged periods of time. Its two 20-foot containers were used, “one as a mobile laboratory that allowed the scientists to process and store samples with minimal equipment, and the other as a mobile oceanographic platform outfitted to lower equipment to take samples and transmit information directly from the depths,” Capt. Espinel explained. Colombia’s equipment was also used by their peers from other nations, serving as support for things like supplying desalinated water to the Chilean base at Yelcho or oil to the Argentine base. “There are always good relations with everyone there because everyone goes there with the same goal, which is to do research, generate knowledge, and maintain and support the conservation of Antarctica,” Capt. Espinel said. Some achievements The Colombian Navy announced in a press release that the main achievements were Colombia’s role in promoting comprehensive maritime security using trained personnel and meeting international standards of cooperation as well as expanding the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific’s databases on marine biodiversity. The Colombian Navy’s operational triad (a ship, a helicopter, and a Coast Guard unit) helped to carry out scientific research and provided assistance to other nations operating in Antarctica, facilitating diving operations, navigation, and welding in icy waters, as well as collecting sample microorganisms such as zooplankton. The ARC 20 de julio returned to its home port in Cartagena, Colombia, on March 1st. It has now returned to its regular patrol duties. Meanwhile, scientists are processing the data they collected and the Colombian Antarctic Program is planning the next phases of research.
Four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were on Tuesday named in a new list of global tax havens released by the European Union.EU finance ministers said Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago were among 17 countries on the blacklist of tax havens, after 10 months of investigations by EU officials.Caribbean countries have in the past been very critical of being included on these lists insisting that they have done everything required as outlined by various European organizations like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).Countries blacklisted not doing enoughThe finance ministers who met in Brussels on Tuesday also named American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.They said the countries on the blacklist were not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes.Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.Cayman Island and Bermuda included tooThe list excludes a number of British Overseas Territories such as the Cayman Island and Bermuda that were on a previous EU blacklist from June 2015. Complaints about the methodology of that last list saw it scrapped and replaced with the new register.The new list was drafted by the European Council’s Code of Conduct (COC), a group comprised of finance ministers from EU member states. Countries’ inclusion is based on whether a state gives preferential treatment to companies enabling them to move profits to avoid charges.Another 47 countries have also been included in a “grey” list of countries not compliant with EU tax standards but who have committed to change their rules.The announcement comes less than a month after the publication of the Paradise Papers, a global leak containing information about individuals and companies holding offshore finances.