In the United States, Canada and Europe, some old hydroelectric dams are being torn down, rejected as environmentally destructive or too expensive to repair or replace. But that’s not the case in parts of the developing world, including Southeast Asia. There dams are being built along the biologically rich Mekong River and its tributaries. In just one small country, Laos, seven large dams are currently under construction, and over 50 more are on the drawing board. Some see this as a major threat to biodiversity.
The world economic crisis caused a steep drop in the price of metal but that hasn’t stopped a strange and extremely dangerous enterprise in the jungles of Laos. Every day kids and adults trek into the forest looking for scrap metal they can sell for cash. They find fine gauge steel – bombs — or pieces of them — left over from the Vietnam War. Many of these bombs never exploded. Mary Stucky reports from Laos on this deadly business.
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Some of the finest straw hats in the world come from Ecuador. The best sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Most of that money goes to the dealers and retail stores — the weavers themselves don’t earn enough to live on. But a retired U.S. advertising executive says he has a plan to create more demand for the hats and pay the best weavers a decent wage. Mary Stucky reports from the central coast of Ecuador.
Last year, mining companies in Bolivia doubled their profits, thanks to soaring price of minerals. Despite that, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. That’s because most miners don’t work for big mining companies. In Bolivia, miners usually form themselves into what they call cooperatives and pick through what’s left after the big mining companies pull out. There is virtually no government oversight of this industry and miners work under appalling conditions that have hardly changed in 500 years. 50 thousand mostly men toil in the mines of Bolivia.
Dosas are a a sort of thin crepe wrapped around a filling — often potatoes — as popular in India as pancakes here. Savory. Crispy. Eaten all day long. Making the perfect dosa starts days before it’s eaten.
Throughout the world it’s sometimes surprising to find people still doing jobs that disappeared in wealthy countries centuries ago. One example: rag pickers. Men, women and even children who pick through trash, looking for items of value.
Today there are still millions of rag pickers in India. Only the lowest caste people do what is obviously an unpleasant and demeaning job. But Mary Stucky met a rag picker in Ambala Cantt, a city north of Delhi, who does this job with dignity and hopes to give his children a better future.
Mexico is the birthplace of chocolate. The story goes that the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl presented his people with a gift from the garden of paradise: the cacao tree from which chocolate is made. Nowhere in Mexico is chocolate held in higher esteem than in Oaxaca – it is said that every man woman and child in this city in southern Mexico consumes chocolate at least once a day.
Mary Stucky went to Pilar Cabrera, a native of Oaxaca and a well-known chef,
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