Not a promising future…

Phnom Penh was once known as a beautiful colonial city with wide tree-shaded boulevards but most of that environment has been sacrificed to “progress,” more buildings, more people, and more traffic. Here is a surviving tree, minus many limbs but still leafy, but how long can it last growing up from a little square hole in the concrete?
50 to 75 years ago, this stump was one of the beautiful trees on a boulevard. Now it’s just a remnant, a reminder–for those who even see it–of what once was.

Remnant of Another Age

Probably most people passing by at street level don’t even know this tree exists. Its lower trunk is gnashed and scarred, its lower branches cut away, and it stands silently as a witness to humanity’s indifference to nature and beauty. Only its leafy crown proclaims its former glory and the long-gone stateliness of the colonial avenue that predated this now commercial strip.

Heavy weather

This is the rainy season in Cambodia, there is a tropical storm affecting a whole area of Southeast Asia, and we had a really heavy storm for about an hour this afternoon. I like rain and needed to go to the grocery so I ventured out when the storm was at its heaviest.

This is when I was coming home from the grocery and the actual rain has stopped falling. This is a really shallow area. When I was bicycling in the worst-affected areas, my foot and the pedal where six inches below the surface
The garbage collectors are on strike now and there are piles like this all over the city. Luckily this pile is in shallow water. In the deeper areas, the plastic bags of trash have gone sailing away in the rushing waters in the streets.
This section of street is about ten feet lower than the main road which was built up precisely to be a dike against flooding of large areas of the city. But now all that water collected on the elevated road flows down to streets like this and is under such pressure that it flows out of the sewers at this lower level.

No Single-use Plastics

At a time when everyone is looking for alternatives to single-use plastics, Cambodia shows the way. We are starting a three-day Buddhist holy time tomorrow and it is a custom to give large rice rolls with a filling inside. No plastics, though. The wrappings are banana leaves and long grasses, the way they have wrapped these rolls for centuries. Russ Brine, Maryknoll lay missioner, is assisting with the display.

Tree-lined Streets?

A recent article in The Phnom Penh Post spoke of a plan to beautify Phnom Penh with avenues with sidewalks and trees. That is going to be a challenge.

Most of the sidewalks in Phnom Penh don’t exist or are barely visible because of all the parking and other activity taking place on them.

Even on those rare urban streets that still have trees (like the three above) they and the sidewalks have been taken over so that the woman–and all other pedestrians–must walk in the street.

Damaging the Environment and Democracy

Yesterday was World Environment Day. Above is a good illustration of what the Royal Government of Cambodia thinks of the environment: a group of young people take a bike ride to promote environmental awareness–and the government seizes, harasses, and stops them. Both the environment and human rights are endangered here.

Temperature Extremes….

You’ve been reading about the hot spot in the Pacific near New Zealand and the very high temperatures in Australia and the flood waters in Venice. Well, things are pretty bad here, too. In the article above, the government weather bureau is “warning” people that the temperature is going down to 17º to 19ºC. That is 62.5º to 66.2ºF! So there! Things are difficult here, too!

Where have the trees gone?

This is the street in Kampot town where we were waiting for the van back to Phnom Penh. It was sad to see the stumps of seven huge trees across the street from us. I hope there was a REALLY good reason for cutting the trees down and it wasn’t just to make money for someone.

Disappearing Forests

This is original growth forest in Preah Vihear Province, part of 1500 hectares kept as a nature preserve. It is beautiful mountainous woodlands with magnificent trees.

This is the devastation less than 20 miles away where the original forests have been cut, the wood sold off (probably illegally and probably with a government connection), and small farmers have taken over.

I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but another area has been cut and replanted in rubber trees–usually in concessions owned by Cambodian tycoons/ministers or Chinese or Vietnamese companies. You can notice the small cups attached to the right side of each tree to catch the rubber as it flows out.