On Earth Day, 20 Gorgeous Photos Of Natural Wonders Under Threat

The Huffington Post  | by  Nick Robins-Early
Posted: Updated: 

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April 22 marks Earth Day, the annual U.N.-sponsored event to celebrate the planet and raise awareness of the impact that humanity has on the natural world. As people and governments across the globe honor the date, The WorldPost looks into some of Earth’s wonders that face destruction at the hands of men. Take a look at the images below and expand your knowledge of these natural treasures in peril.

1. Virunga National Park

Africa’s most diverse park is home to rare mountain gorillas and a series of active volcanoes. Oil exploration and the ongoing brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo currently pose dire threats to the park’s survival.

(Brent Stirton via Getty Images)


(Steve Terill/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The idyllic stretch of waters is home to an ecosystem that includes threatened species such as manatees and crocodiles. Excessive development and illegal hunting currently imperil the natural balance of the reef.

belize barrier reef
(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

belize reef
(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

3. The Marshall Islands

The tiny, stunning atolls that make up the Marshall Islands are very close to sea level, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The photo below was made during recent flooding that drove thousands from their homes.

(Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images)

marshall islands
(Yuri Cortez//AFP/Getty Images)

4. Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra

This 2.5 million hectare rainforest in Indonesia is home to a wealth of biodiversity, including endangered Sumatran orangutans. Logging and illegal poaching are a few of the dangers the park is faced with.

sumatra rainforest
(Romea Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

sumatra rainforest
(Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

5. Mount Kilimanjaro

Immortalized by Hemingway, the crown of Africa’s highest mountain could fade into memory within a few short decades.Studies indicate that the iconic snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are falling victim to rising temperatures brought on by climate change. The second photo shows some of the peak’s melting ice caps.

kilimanjaro snow
(Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

kilimanjaro snow
(Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson/Getty Images)

6. Bamiyan Valley

Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley is a majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site that has sadly been ravaged by the nation’s lengthy war, leaving areas of it inaccessible due to antipersonnel mines.

bamiyan valley
(Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

bamiyan valley
(Massoud Hossaini//AFP/Getty Images)

7. The Florida Everglades

The degradation of the Everglades as a result of development and reduced water flows has resulted in a reduction of the animal life in the sprawling park and put it under threat of further decline.

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images>

(AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)

8. The Dead Sea

With its salted waters and extremely low elevation, the Dead Sea is another natural wonder that sadly seems to be slowly receding into nothingness. Lack of water flow is causing the waters to dry up and the sea to shrink at threatening rates. A proposed water pipeline to replenish the sea has been agreed upon, but there are worries that it might further upset the natural balance of the region.

dead sea israel
(Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

dead sea israel
(Pavel Kassin/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

9. Madagascar’s Rainforest

The unique flora and fauna of Madagascar’s rainforest have made the island a naturalists’ dream for centuries, but as deforestation increases, the threat of destruction of habitat looms larger than ever.

madagascar rainforest
(Nick Garbutt/Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

madagascar rainforest
(Nick Garbutt/Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

10. Air and Tenere National Park

Niger’s Air and Tenere National park is Africa’s largest protected area and home to a diverse ecosystem. Military conflict and unrest have long been threats to the gorgeous desert landscape of the park.

tenere reserve
(DEA / S. Amantini/De Agostini/Getty Images)

tenere reserve
(DEA / S. Amantini/De Agostini/Getty Images)




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Season of Stars

Good morning!


We have a beautiful spring Sunday morning with lilacs in front of us, red buds,

cherry blossoms, magnolias, daffodils – all kinds of flowers surrounding us as if we

are in a great ocean of flowers. This is Easter – Ishtar or Aster – the season of stars

shining forth brightly. The Buddha was awakened seeing the morning star. We are

part and parcel of stars – our bodies and brains are made from stars and our lives

are influenced by their movements. We forget the great universe of stars and stick

only to a small world of selves.



While sitting I remembered a Chinese poem, which reads:


The spring sleep knows no dawning,

Hearing birds singing here and there.

From the sound of the wind last night,

I know some flowers must have fallen.


This is the season of everything springing up, but soon we will see all flowers and

leaves falling. So, it is said,


It is easy for Youth to grow old,

But learning is hard to achieve.

Never make light of a bit of light and shadow.

While not awakening from a dream

Of grass around the pond,

Already the paulownia leaves in front of the

Steps sound autumn.



Dogen made a poem titled “The Original Face”:


Flowers in spring,

Cuckoo in summer,

The moon in autumn,

Snow in winter, clear and cool.



So, we need to witness our original face or original life, where we live our true life,

not sticking to small selves: me-ism, materialism, militarism, and money-ism.

Yesterday I happened to watch a scene of the movie Zen, the Life of Dogen. Dogen

gave his last words on the Eightfold Great Persons’ Awareness, just as the Buddha

did. He said that no one could be on the Awakened Way without knowing and

realizing it. So, we must practice it constantly, not wasting time, and settle into

this great ocean of life, limitless life.



His last poem reads:



Illuminating the First Heaven for fifty four years,

Suddenly springing up, breaking through

the Great Thousand (Worlds),


The entire body, seeking nothing, falls into

the Yellow Spring, alive.



When we cultivate, we can verify this life – limitless life – in limitless light,

liberation, and love. So, before fall comes, we must discover the original face,

with flowers, cuckoos, the moon, and snow.






Note: Regarding the Eightfold Great Persons’ Awareness please visit:



Posted in Cosmos, Dependent Origination (縁起: causality), Dharma | Leave a comment

Lion’s Love for Compassion’s Care


Posted in Cultivation: culture, cultivation: verification (修:証) | Leave a comment

Listen to Leaf


Beautiful to listen to and hard to believe it’s done with a leaf?!?!?


Click here: YouTube – ??Musical leaf-Whispering Hope



- Pat sent this coop music -


Note: The renowned haiku poet Basho said, “Listen to pine about pine.”

Posted in Cultivation: culture, Dependent Origination (縁起: causality) | Leave a comment

Ecuador 16: Week 4, Baños



The Turungahua is a 16,480 feet high active volcano covered on the top with ice and

snow.  Just recently, major eruptions have been recorded  -  with lava flow, ash

emissions and explosions sounding like cannon-shots. The detonations even

shattered some windows in Baños.


The best place to observe the volcano is the Casa del Árbol, a tree house 7,800 feet

above sea level.  To get to this place, we took a taxi and went through beautiful







Waterfall at the foot of the Turungahua volcano


Unfortunately, the volcano was totally covered by clouds. However, the tree house

was great and the swing even more.









Flying into the sky




The path downhill brought us through lush vegetation



The walk to the Pailon del Diabolo , a spectacular waterfall, was of a different

quality than all the other hikes we made.  The pathway was well taken care of and

proverbs, mounted on wooden boards about the path, were reminding the visitor

to appreciate nature.







               To be your own master, learn to appreciate the silence of nature 




IMG_9287 (1)















Steep steps down to the devil’s cauldron











In the evening, Turungahua became active again.  It was spitting smoke and fire into

the sky.  First, we saw the smoke as a cloud behind a hill in front of our hotel.


We drove up to a viewpoint opposite the Turungahua  to finally see the volcano.  We

were impressed by it’s power and gracefulness.  In the east, the full moon was rising.

The lights in the valley looked like little jewels, so clear. Slowly, clouds came in and

in not so long time, the whole mountain disappeared again.




- Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -



This is the last of her Ecuador travelogue series. We again appreciate her

contribution after her previous Manaslu and Tsum Valley series with many

beautiful pictures. The last series was expanded and published in a beautiful

book with more memories and pictures.








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Ecuador 15: Week 4, Baños



Baños is located on the slope of the now very active volcano Turungahua, which

means in Quichua “throat of fire”.  The town is a tourist attraction with several

thermal baths,  waterfalls, dense subtropical vegetation and many hiking trails.

For several days ,we stayed there and did a lot of fun things.





                                      Baños photographed from the Cafe de Ciel


On the first day, we hiked an old smuggler path, the Sendera de los Contrabandistas.

The smugglers once carried sugar cane Schnaps from the town Puja up to Baños

and further on. The dense vegetation along the valley of the Rio Pastazas gave them

many opportunities to hide.






  Rio Pastazas: Road on the left side of the valley, smuggler path on the right side







My son and I carried our good cameras and could not stop making photos from

all the orchids and other wonders of nature.







































Several Tarabitas, a rope bridge with hanging baskets, carried passengers and

material across the valley. They were fun to ride (see green hanging basket in the

middle of the valley).








At one time, the path was leading us directly through the court of a farmhouse.

Neither the farmer couple nor their dogs minded. On the contrary, they welcomed









Also, on this path, signs for hikers were mounted  on trees and poles.

Sometimes, we had to read the signs twice.













The further we hiked downstream, the more dense and lush became the vegetation.

Baños is called “Gateway to the Amazon”.  Many organized jungle trips are offered in

this town.


The jungle is a paradise for vines and ferns.








Some ferns are like trees.  The leafs grow like a palm tree out of a trunk.







The fern leaf, still in its undeveloped stage, has the most beautiful form.







Probably, the bishop’s staff, still used in the Catholic Church, has it’s origin

from this wonder of nature.



     - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Ecuador 14: Week 4, Volcano Pululahua and Baños



17 km north of Quito is the Pululahua Volcano. Pululahua means in Quichua

“Smoke of Water .” It is a collapsed volcano which erupted 2 500 years ago.

Because of it’s great biodiversity,  it was dedicated  as Geobotanical Reserve.

We spent one night and one full day in this area.






                                 Pan de Acucar, a lava mound inside the crater





The garden of the Pululahua hostal  was a favorite place for Hummingbirds.

They were flying with incredible speed from flower to flower.






                                                          Pululahua Hostal








We started our hike at the bottom of the crater.  The area looked lonely and

abandoned.  Many of the forty families who lived here left the area.  The land

they own was too small to live from. The only school was closed.  We sneaked into

the school area and looked through the window – schoolbooks, drawings, teaching

material and even the school bell was left.  It seemed that they all escaped a great







                                                           Abandoned school house







           Even the cow seemed to look lonely and sad


Like everywhere on our hikes, there were no signs for orientation. Also, there was

nobody to ask. We got lost and climbed up on one of the lava mounds.  The detour

was worth while.  The most gorgeous flowers and orchids were blooming there.


The Pululahua crater contains more than 2000 different kind of flora and 60

different kinds of orchids.  It was paradise.











The path to the rim of the volcano was leading through the most dense vegetation.

Plants are fighting for light and space. The amount of shades of green was almost












After endless seeming spirals, on a steep and wet path, we reached the top. Thick fog

covered the whole area.  Instead of a view, we were compensated with the most

brilliant blooming flowers.














                 - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Ecuador 13: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi



When we left Chugchilán, we were not only a group of six, but eight.  Two dogs were

accompanying us.  We tried everything to chase them back.  It did not work.


The path soon lead us to gorgeous land formations and a beautiful view down the








IMG_6130 (1)


The area was more populated and we met people and animals along the path.
















In the village Itualo, we found a perfect resting place at the stairs of the cross.






It was muddy on the way down to the river











By crossing the river, the dogs where still with us.  However, the white dog was

scared to jump over a hole in the bridge and returned back.  He looked for a good

crossing spot in the river, but could not find one. The dogs were separated.












Colleen walked back and carried the dog over the bridge. We were a group of eight


At 4 pm we arrived in Isinlivi. (village nestled in the hill)  A man informed us, that

the dogs are well known visitors. They love to walk with the hikers coming from








In driving back to Quito, for a brief moment the snow covered slopes of the Cotopaxi

revealed itself.









              – Text and picture contributed by Garyo -












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Blueberry Blooming






                                     - Picture sent by Erin -




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Ecuador 12: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi




We did stay one more day in Mama Hilda and decided to visit the Cloud Forest.

The Cloud Forest is on the top of the mountain. In order to get to this place, we had

to rent horses. Two indigenous men were walking beside us to control the horses and

show the way.

My daughter and son on the horse




IMG_5873 (1)







The Cloud Forest got it’s name because much of the time low level clouds

are covering the area. It is also called fog forest. Fog condenses on the leaves and

the constant moisture drops on the ground. An abundance of mosses grow on the

evergreen trees and shrubs.




IMG_5927 (1)







After riding for almost two hours up the mountain, the fog got very thick.  We

entered a place where it was easy to imagine that elf, dwarfs and gnomes were living.

It was a fairytale land. For more than half an hour we walked through the dense

forest.  The path was too small and steep for the horses to go.







Every branch was covered by moss.  Bromeliads loved this place.









Some places were quite treacherous to walk.  Our guides were helping us.












In the afternoon, we came back to Mama Hilda.  There, beautiful blooming shrubs

welcomed us.














       - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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