February 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Tunisia: Environment: Wildlife: Pioneer Press: For modern-day explorer RPCV Michael Fay, rain forest is his only home

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Wildlife: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Wildlife : February 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Tunisia: Environment: Wildlife: Pioneer Press: For modern-day explorer RPCV Michael Fay, rain forest is his only home

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-25-123.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.25.123) on Friday, February 24, 2006 - 5:01 pm: Edit Post

For modern-day explorer RPCV Michael Fay, rain forest is his only home

For modern-day explorer RPCV Michael Fay, rain forest is his only home

"I went to college in Arizona and studied ecology, botany, biology things like that. I got my Ph.D. in gorilla ecology. I joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and went to Tunisia to work with national parks there. I went south after Tunisia to the Central Africa Republic and found everything I was looking for there."

For modern-day explorer RPCV Michael Fay, rain forest is his only home

For modern-day explorer, rain forest is his only home

BY ELLEN TOMSON
Pioneer Press

Caption: Michael Fay, Explorer & Environmentalist speaking at "Africa: Whatever You Thought, Think Again ..." A discussion/question-and-answer session ahead of the United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie

Five years ago, J. Michael Fay walked 2,000 miles through the Central African rain forest. Two years ago, he embarked on another ambitious project: crisscrossing Africa, logging 70,000 miles, in a small plane fitted with cameras that snapped a digital image every 20 seconds to record the human impact on the continent's ecosystems.

Fay has what many people would regard as a dream job. He is an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic, a title he has certainly earned by risking his life to document and preserve equatorial Africa, one the remaining "wild" places on Earth.

"Passionate" would be a weak word to describe his commitment to alerting humans to their ongoing destruction of their own habitat and their responsibility to our entire planet and every living thing on it.

In his quest, he has been crushed and gored by an elephant. His 5-foot, 10-inch frame bears the scars of 13 tusk wounds. He has lived on fish caught in rivers and palm seeds for as long as five days after the food supply he carried ran out during a long trek. He survived a plane crash that cut a swath 150 feet long through the thick vegetation.

Fay is scheduled to visit the Twin Cities later this month as part of the "National Geographic LIVE!" series that runs through May and will feature presentations by four explorers. He is now in Africa watching elephants but visited recently with friends in California, where he spent a weekend hiking and camping in the "most geographically isolated" area he could find in Joshua Tree National Park.

While he was in California, he answered some questions about his life and experiences during a telephone interview:

Q. How did you become interested in ecology?

A. I've been interested ever since I was a little kid. My family lived in California, and the interesting thing about growing up where I did was that on one side of our house was the L.A. basin, which had six times the particulate in the air that it does now, and on the other side was the San Gabriel Mountains, a wilderness area. All I ever did was go up in those mountains, and every day, I was confronted with the world of smog and the ability to climb above the smog. Even growing up, I thought: This is not sustainable.

Q. What path led you to the work you do now?

A. I went to college in Arizona and studied ecology, botany, biology things like that. I got my Ph.D. in gorilla ecology. I joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and went to Tunisia to work with national parks there. I went south after Tunisia to the Central Africa Republic and found everything I was looking for there.

Q. Describe the Megatransect project, the punishing trek you undertook from Congo to Gabon.

A. I had realized there was this huge swath of forest to explore, the largest forest blocks still left in Africa. We walked for 456 days I had about 12 people with me, 11 Pygmies who were forest people and one Bantu guy. We changed teams once along the way. We saw mammals that had never seen humans. We spent 2½ months just chopping through vegetation. We hit mountains 200 to 300 meters high. When we finally made it to the (West Africa) coast, I was very relieved we hadn't lost anybody, and I had seen everything I had ever dreamed of seeing. The governments of Gabon and Congo have since decided to designate 10 percent of their forest as national forest, with no logging allowed.

Q. What about your airplane crash? When was that, and how did it happen?

A. I crashed in 1999, just before I took that long walk. I was cruising over these big mountains with nothing but forest below, and there was a screw-up, a mechanical problem with a tube that lets in air. I said to the Japanese guy who was with me, "We're going to die today." But finally, someone communicated with me and gave me the location of an abandoned airstrip. It had these trees about three inches in diameter growing all over it. I flew over there and kind of put her down into these smaller trees. They snapped off like icicles and, miracle of miracles, there was this razorlike grass that acted like a net. Crazy. The plane was so covered over in vegetation, it was like a cave in there. It was two weeks before we could repair the plane and clear the airstrip so we could fly back out of there.

Q. But the crash was not your scariest experience?

A. No, I still go up in a plane, whereas I literally can't get up the courage to engage with elephants like I used to. Being kind of physically attached to an elephant was the scariest thing to happen to me. When you're holding on to tusks and wrestling with an elephant, you're thinking, "Oh, my God. This actually happened. Am I or am I not going to die?" I tried to stop her by yelling and screaming and waving my arms. Then, I started running. There was a lot of vegetation, and I immediately fell. I turned around, and she was already airborne. When I grabbed her tusks, we fell to the ground together. Her eye was about six inches away from my head; we were eye to eye. She tried to roll over on me and tried to crush me. I could feel this pressure was building and building and then I could feel ribs snapping. She tried to stab me and stab me, and finally she flicked me away. I looked down, and my pants were bloody. I had about 13 tusk wounds. Some of them went right through.

Q. You flew in a small plane at low altitudes, sometimes at less than 100 feet above forest canopy, to take the pictures for the Megaflyover project. What do the resulting images show?

A. That even if you go to a place like this, the most isolated and kind of undisturbed in people's minds, the human footprint is still just about everywhere. And most of Africa is still living off the land, without input of pesticides and herbicides, and drawing from aboveground water supplies. The land is being used but not beyond where people are living. They consume, on average, about 100 times less in resources than your average Westerner.

Q. What do you see as your mission in life?

A. More and more countries in Africa Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique among them are taking resource management seriously, but the trend for use is growing faster than the conservation efforts. For example, at least 60 percent of the wildlife in Africa has disappeared in the past 30 years. Humans have to change their ecological strategy to one that is adapted to reality. Humans have to recognize that we really are the ones that determine the fate of this planet.

Q. How would you describe your lifestyle?

A. I'm certainly a nomad, literally a drifter. I don't have a house anywhere. I don't have a car, kids or a family. From that point of view, I have freedom. I spend enough time moving around that it doesn't even come up on my radar screen that I don't have this place where I go. When I'm in Washington (D.C.), I just sleep in my office. For me, sleeping is kind of like what a dog does. You curl up wherever you are, sleep as long as you need and then get up.

Ellen Tomson can be reached at etomson@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5455.





When this story was posted in February 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

Top Stories: February 2, 2006 Date: February 4 2006 No: 783 Top Stories: February 2, 2006
Al Kamen writes: Rice to redeploy diplomats 20 Jan
Peace Corps mourns the Loss of Volunteer Tessa Horan 1 Feb
RPCV pursues dreams in America's Heartland 1 Feb
Sargent Shriver documentary to be shown in LA 30 Jan
W. Frank Fountain is new board chairman of Africare 27 Jan
Abbey Brown writes about acid attacks in Bangladesh 26 Jan
Christopher Hill Sees Ray of Hope in N.Korea Standoff 26 Jan
Jeffrey Smit writes on one man diplomatic outposts 25 Jan
Joe Blatchford's ACCION and microfinance 24 Jan
James Rupert writes: A calculated risk in Pakistan 23 Jan
Sam Farr rips conservative immigration bill 21 Jan
Americans campaign for PC to return to Sierra Leone 20 Jan
Kinky Friedman supports Gay Marriage 20 Jan
Margaret Krome writes on Women leaders 18 Jan
James Walsh leads bipartisan US delegation to Ireland 17 Jan
Mark Schneider writes on Elections and Beyond in Haiti 16 Jan
Robert Blackwill on a "serious setback" in US-India relations 13 Jan
Kevin Quigley writes on PC and U.S. Image Abroad 13 Jan
Emily Metzloff rides bicycle 3,100 miles from Honduras 9 Jan
Charles Brennick starts operation InterConnection 9 Jan
Lee Fisher tells story of Pablo Morillo 7 Jan
Nancy Wallace writes: Was PC a CIA front after all? 4 Jan

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

PC establishes awards for top Volunteers Date: November 9 2005 No: 749 PC establishes awards for top Volunteers
Gaddi H. Vasquez has established the Kennedy Service Awards to honor the hard work and service of two current Peace Corps Volunteers, two returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and two Peace Corps staff members. The award to currently serving volunteers will be based on a demonstration of impact, sustainability, creativity, and catalytic effect. Submit your nominations by December 9.

Robert F. Kennedy - 80th anniversary of his birth Date: November 26 2005 No: 757 Robert F. Kennedy - 80th anniversary of his birth
"Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change."

Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years Date: October 22 2005 No: 745 Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years
Congratulations to the Peace Corps for the highest number of volunteers in 30 years with 7,810 volunteers serving in 71 posts across the globe. Of course, the President's proposal to double the Peace Corps to 15,000 volunteers made in his State of the Union Address in 2002 is now a long forgotten dream. With deficits in federal spending stretching far off into the future, any substantive increase in the number of volunteers will have to wait for new approaches to funding and for a new administration. Choose your candidate and start working for him or her now.

The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.


Read the stories and leave your comments.






Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Pioneer Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tunisia; Environment; Wildlife

PCOL25133
08


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: