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Aid Groups In Afghanistan Struggle With Recovery Efforts After Massive Earthquake Kills More Than 2,000

International aid groups in Afghanistan are struggling to allocate resources and recovery efforts after the nation was hit with a massive earthquake that has left more than 2,000 people dead and many more injured.

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Hurricane Idalia Continues Tracks Through Southeastern Georgia After Pummeling Florida

Hurricane Idalia has already made history in some parts of Florida after making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph on Wednesday. It is the strongest hurricane to hit Florida’s Big Bend Area in over 125 years.

In 1896, an unnamed Category 3 hurricane struck the state’s gulf coast at sustained winds of 125 mph. Since then, no hurricane of Idalia’s strength has hit the region.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee issued two extreme wind warnings on Wednesday morning. The warnings are only issued when winds exceeding 115 mph are expected in the area, and there have only been 27 such warnings for extremely high winds in the contiguous United States prior to Hurricane Idalia. Most of these advisories were issued in Florida.

While moving over the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, Hurricane Idalia experienced a period of rapid intensification, drawing its energy from the heightened sea surface temperatures.

Any increase in wind speeds by more than 35 mph within 24 hours is classified as rapid intensification, and Hurricane Idalia’s winds strengthened by 55 mph over 24 hours.

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Scientists have long been concerned about warming ocean waters due to climate change. Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Florida reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this summer.

On Wednesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said in a White House briefing that storms have become more frequent and severe due to global warming.

“These storms are intensifying so fast that our local emergency management officials have less time to warn and evacuate and get people to safety.”

Recent measurements show that the surface waters in Idalia’s path had reached nearly 88 degrees Fahrenheit, an all-time high since the early 1980s.

A rare blue supermoon will likely make the storm worse, with its gravitational pull causing tides to rise further. Brian Haines, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Charleston, South Carolina, told The Associated Press, “I would say the timing is pretty bad for this one.”

The supermoon is expected to exacerbate flooding not only in Florida but also in states such as Georgia and South Carolina. Some parts of Charleston, South Carolina, could be underwater by Wednesday night.

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According to CNN, on Wednesday morning, Idalia’s storm surge was record-breaking from Tampa to The Big Bend region, with surges of more than 8 feet in Cedar Key, Florida, around 6.8 feet above their normal tides. The measurement surpassed the previous high water level of 5.99 feet from Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Wednesday morning’s high tide in Tampa Bay was 4.5 feet, topping the 3.79-foot mark set by Tropical Storm Eta in 2020.

At 4.05 feet, the tide at Clearwater Beach was higher than it had been since the 1993 Storm of the Century, which had been recorded at 4.02 feet. The Steinhatchee River in Steinhatchee, Florida, saw a 9-foot rise in water levels in just two hours.

As of 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday,  Hurricane Idalia has weakened to a Category 1 hurricane as it barrels through Southeastern Georgia, moving at 20 mph with maximum sustained winds of around 75 mph. It still remains an active threat to the Southeast.

FEMA Administrator Criswell also told reporters President Biden contacted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “to let him know that the federal family continues to be there to support him.”

“The president reiterated that if anything is needed from the federal government, we will be able to support; and we have over 1,000 personnel currently deployed, prepared to support not just Florida, but all of our states that are in the path as needed.”

Dr. Ani Kalayjian MeaningfulWorld

Helping Survivors Find Meaning in Trauma | Dr. Ani Kalayjian

Trauma is a silent epidemic that affects millions of people around the world. In times of natural disasters, armed conflict, humanitarian crises or interpersonal violence, the aftermath can leave individuals and sometimes communities with deep emotional scars. To help survivors transform their suffering and find resilience, psychologist Dr. Ani Kalayjian founded the international non-governmental organization MeaningfulWorld.

earthquake

Turkey And Syria Facing Years Of Rebuilding Following 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake 

Turkey and Syria are currently enduring the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that left both nations in complete devastation. 

“We’ve done a bit of mapping of the size of the affected area, it’s the size of France,” said the director of disasters, climate, and crises at the International Federation of the Red Cross, Caroline Holt, to CNN.

“We haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes,” said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Security-General. 

The World Health Organization estimated up to 23 million people could be impacted by the disaster. More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded within a day and a half following the initial earthquake, one of which had a magnitude of 7.5.

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As of last Friday more than 22,000 deaths have been reported. While Turkey has experienced earthquakes in the past, citizens are angry that the government doesn’t have a more solid preparation plan in place that could’ve protected more people.

Ajay Chhibber, an economist who was World Bank director for Turkey, told CNN that “it’s like a bad movie [that’s] coming back again. Similar to this week’s event, a past 1999 earthquake tremor struck in the early hours but it occurred in the country’s northwest – a densely populated area closer to Istanbul. It lasted around 45 seconds, leaving more than 17,000 dead and an estimated 500,000 people homeless.”

More than 6,000 buildings have collapsed. Chhibber stated that “Turkey is capable of moving very, very swiftly if they can get their act together on this.”

Ismail Baris, professor of social work at Istanbul’s Uskudar University and former mayor of Golcuk at the time of the quake, told CNN that “in addition to the collapsed private and public buildings, the city’s water transport pipes, water supply network, sewage system [and] storm water system were completely destroyed, as well as 80% of the city’s roads.”

“Across the border in Syria, rebuilding efforts will be even more complicated. Syrians face“nightmares on top of nightmares, and the World Food Program has described the situation in the northwest of the country as a catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” Guterres warned this past weekend.

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“We have the perfect humanitarian storm in Syria,” said Caroline Holt.

Pre-earthquake, the UN has estimated that more than 4 million people were already dependent on humanitarian aid due to the civil war which has been impacting Syria since 2011. “After 12 years of constant pain, suffering and living in a vulnerable context, your ability to withstand – especially in winter – the harsh conditions that you’re facing [is diminished],” Holt told CNN.

“The conflict – or conflicts – are much worse in that area of Syria than in that area of Turkey,” said Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London. 

“While Turkey has political problems of its own, they do have a comparatively strong government and comparatively strong military in comparison to Syria, which is at war. Turkey also has greater pre-earthquake resources. Neither country is especially rich, but Turkey at least has that baseline where they’ve not been in a major conflict dividing the country for 12 years. They have not been isolated through sanctions,” Kelman said.

“While disasters like this wreak havoc, they also create opportunities to prevent such havoc being wrought again. There is a man-made part of every natural disaster,” according to Chhibber.

“We do have examples where people have taken the opportunity to say there has been a disaster, and we want to help people, so let’s try to reconstruct in such a way that we are supporting peace. At the moment, I do not see either government responding in that way, and I do not see the world responding in that way,” Kelman said.

earthquake

Over 2,700 Killed after Two Major Earthquakes Rock Syria and Turkey

Over 2,700 people were killed, and thousands more were injured when two major earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on Monday. Hundreds of buildings collapsed and buried residents under their wreckage.

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Hurricane Ian Barrels Toward South Carolina, Leaving Destruction in Its Wake

After pummeling Florida, Hurricane Ian has its sights set on South Carolina. The death toll from Ian, which made landfall as a category four hurricane in Florida, has now risen to 21. Authorities still have to confirm that the deaths were related to the storm.

Ian downgraded to a tropical storm before strengthening into a category one hurricane on its trajectory toward South Carolina. Meteorologists expect Ian to make landfall again in South Carolina today before moving northeast toward North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia Friday night through Saturday morning. It will be the first hurricane to hit South Carolina since Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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Florida is still assessing the damage of Hurricane Ian, mostly from flooding. Early estimates say that the damage could cost up to $40 billion. Florida’s former emergency management chief told NYTimes, “Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island look like they will need to be 80% rebuilt.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said it would be a yearslong recovery.

President Joe Biden said it could prove to be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. Over two and a half million residents who were in the hurricane’s path are without power. Many are left with uninhabitable homes or do not have access to water, such as in Lee County, where a water main line broke.

“My message to the people of Florida and to the country in times like this: America comes together. We’re gonna pull together as one team, as one America. First thing this morning as I talked to Gov. DeSantis and again offered the fullest federal support.”

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said that Floridians affected by Ian need to rely on their own supplies for food and water for the next day or so. The government advises residents to save enough food and water for seven days before a significant storm. From days 3 to 5 after the storm, the National Guard and local community distribution will serve water and dry food. Hot food distribution will follow shortly after.

Governor DeSantis said 700 rescues had been conducted so far by air. Before the storm hit, the state government asked residents planning to shelter in place to fill out a survey to allow officials to have demographic information.

“Some of the damage was almost indescribable. I would say the most significant damage that I saw was on Fort Myers Beach. Some of the homes were wiped out, some of it was just concrete slabs.”

In 2013, during his time in the House of Representatives, DeSantis was against federal aid for the New York region after the damage of Hurricane Sandy. Now, he is asking for governmental assistance to help his state. He told Tucker Carlson, “when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything — if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you’re just not going to be able to.”

At the time, DeSantis and Ted Yoho were the only House members to oppose the assistance package for Hurricane Sandy.

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President Biden said that the government would provide uninsured people in Florida an assistance of $37,900 for home repairs and another $37,900 for property loss. In Thursday’s speech, President Biden thanked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their prompt response.

“I’ve seen you in action all across the country from the West Coast of the Northwest and the Northeast, down in Louisiana, all across this country. And just in the last two weeks, you’ve been working 24/7. No matter what, when emergencies happen, FEMA is always there. You deserve the nation’s gratitude and full support.”

South Carolina is already feeling the effects of Hurricane Ian, with 10,000 residents without power. In anticipation of Ian’s arrival, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency. The National Weather Service says Hurricane Ian will likely not strengthen beyond a category one hurricane as it approaches South Carolina, sustaining wind speeds of 85 mph.

More Than 18,000 Evacuated In Australia Due To ‘Life-Threatening’ Floods 

More than 18,000 Australian residents have been evacuated in New South Wales (NSW) due to heavy rains and major flooding in the area which is causing some areas of the nation to resemble “island seas,” according to residents. 

The heavy rains have been impacting NSW since last Thursday but the flooding got really severe over the weekend. Images began circulating online of full roads, trees, and houses, completely submerged in water. Up to 38 areas across the state are considered to be natural disaster areas currently and 19 evacuation orders have been issued so far, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian who spoke at a news conference this morning. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, “much of the flooding has hit the mid-north coast, from Hunter Valley near Sydney to Coffs Harbour, but severe weather warnings have also been extended to include districts on the state’s south coast for Tuesday as the rains are forecast to shift. Heavy rainfall is also developing inland in the north of the state Monday, while in the east, life-threatening extensive flooding and heavy rain continues.”

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A severe weather warning has also been issued for Queensland which neighbors NSW.  According to Premier Berejiklian, the homes that were devastated by the 2019/2020 wildfires now have to cope with extreme flooding conditions.

“Communities who were battered by the bushfires are now being battered by the floods and a deep drought prior to that. I don’t know anytime in our state’s history where we’ve had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic. You’ve been through three or four incidents which are life changing on top of each other. It can make you feel like you are at breaking point.”

Some places have seen close to 40 inches of rain in less than a week, and increased rainfall of about 2-4 inches is expected to hit Sydney this whole week. The worst-affected areas so far have seen rainfall that has been up to five times as strong as what the nation normally expects for this time of year. 

Bureau of Meteorology’s Jane Golding said in a news conference that “the huge rainfalls have been driven by two weather systems colliding. A slow moving coastal trough and the approach of another system coming through from the west is pumping down tropical moisture into the state, which is then being whipped up by strong easterly winds.”

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“With this approach of this new system coming from the west which is approaching today, we’re expecting this heavy rain to fall in areas that haven’t seen as much rain over the last few days, and we’re expecting the flood risk to develop in those areas as well,” she explained. 

Justin Robinson is the Bureau of Meteorology’s national flood manager, who recently spoke to the press about his extensive amount of experience with flooding in Australia. 

“I’ve been a flood forecaster for 20 years and this is probably the worst flooding I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a flood watch that covers all the way from the Queensland border down to the Victoria border, along all those coastal rivers.”

The NSW emergency service networks have said many of the areas across the state “resemble an island sea,” and they’re already preparing for the massive clean up effort that will need to be done once all the rain finally subsides. Premier Berejiklian claimed she has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about calling in the military for backup when it comes time to clean and recover.

Wild Elephants

Worldwide Animal Population Has Declined Nearly 70% In The Past 50 Years  

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report for 2020, nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds – which make up around 4,400 species – have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. Even more staggering, species living in Latin America and the Caribbean have been disproportionately impacted and have declined, on average, by up to 94%. 

The WWF releases this same report every two years to show us how severe climate change is actually impacting the planet and its billions of inhabitants. The report also reveals how these species specific ecosystems have dwindled within past decades, and shows a clear increase in damage that keeps getting progressively worse every year. 

WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts recently made a statement condemning humanity for destroying species populations out of greed and economic gain. He also claims that the US’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic goes to show how irresponsible our world leaders can actually be when it comes to major issues impacting the entire planet. 

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“We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike.”

The report directly blames humans as the sole reason for this massive decline and “dire state” the planet is now in. Generally speaking, it claims that the exponential growth of “human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the last 50 years” it’s what’s led to the unprecedented and monumental decline of natural resources and habitats. 

The destruction of rainforest habitats for farming has been a key factor in the loss of biodiversity and overall population growth for certain species. The amount of land that’s been stripped from natural habitats in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean accounts for 80% of total global deforestation. Land loss in those areas has also led to a 70% decrease in terrestrial biodiversity and 50% decrease in freshwater species biodiversity. The systems now implemented in these cleared out plots of land emit 29% of global greenhouse gases as well. 

“Climate change creates an ongoing destructive feedback loop in which the worsening climate leads to the decline in genetic variability, species richness and populations, and that loss of biodiversity adversely affects the climate.”

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The report states that every single part of the ocean is affected by overfishing pollution and littering. Humans depend on certain marine ecosystems for food and other resources, however, the process of acquiring these resources is doing more damage than good. The emphasis on human health and the planet’s health has also never been more connected. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and multiple wildfires, and other natural disasters that seem to be occurring constantly at this point, prove that humans and nature are greatly connected and need one another to survive. Within the past 50 years, the child mortality and poverty rate has decreased while life expectancy has increased, however, the irreversible damage being done to the planet could completely undo that due to a lack of resources and healthy living environments. 

Within the past 80 years, the rate of infectious diseases emerging has increased “dramatically,” and nearly half of the diseases that have surfaced did so as a direct result of land destruction/change brought on by the food industry. One study reported that diseases originating in animals are responsible for 3 million deaths every year; the Covid-19 pandemic being the most severe example of this. 

So what’s the solution? For those of us at home, we can continue to practice being green everyday, however, the real change needs to come from our world leaders and the multiple industries that exist and actively destroy the environment for financial gain. It’s up to us at home to stay educated and informed, and to vote in all elections for candidates who support improving the planet.

Australia Rain

Australia Is Finally Getting Some Much Needed Rainfall

Australia’s bushfire crisis has been ongoing for over three months now, and it’s truly been one of the most intense and devastating natural disasters in history. Over one billion animals have perished, and over 2 million hectares of land have been destroyed. However, after weeks upon weeks of waiting for a break from the flames, it began to rain over the east coast of Australia. 

Sydney, Australia, along with other cities residing on the east coast, recorded its wettest day in over 15 months this Friday (2/7/20), somewhat of a miracle for the continent. The large amount of rain has reportedly extinguished 20 of the 60 fires in the state of New South Wales (NSW), where a majority of the fires were. That’s one-third of the fires that were ravaging Australia throughout the past few months, and local meteorologists are predicting more fires will be put out as well. 

NSW in general has been dealing with a wide-spread drought for the past three years, which was a major contributing factor to how intense and fast the bushfires spread.

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 07

“We were over the moon to see the state’s forecast for a week-long drenching finally. This is that constant, steady, decent rainfall that we’ve been praying for for so long. This isn’t just one of those scattered showers we saw a month ago. This is really helping our firefighters, and in some places, giving them a well-needed rest,” said NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) spokeswoman Angela Burford to BBC.

While NSW is receiving some much needed relief from their fires, the rest of Australia is still struggling to control the flames. Canberra, the capital city of Australia, and other cities that are more inland and southern are still dealing with some of the largest fires that the continent has experienced during this entire epidemic; at one point Canberra was completely shut down due to the extensive damage and dangerous air conditions.

While Canberra has seen a few scattered rainstorms themselves, it doesn’t even compare to what NSW has been experiencing. In an almost ironic turn of events, the amount of rainfall that’s occurring on Australia’s east coast is actually becoming an issue, as multiple flash-flooding warnings have been dealt out within the past week. 

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According to local meteorology reports for the upcoming week, there’s a severe wet weather warning for over 600 miles worth of land in Australia, all predominantly on the east coast. The warning calls for heavy rainfall, high-speed damaging winds, and “abnormally high tides.” Locals from NSW have even stated that the rainfall so far has seemed to be heavier than when they experienced a cyclone storm two years ago; both a blessing and a curse. 

As previously stated these severe wet weather warnings are being enforced through next week, so while local meteorologists are emphasizing safety over everything, it is predicted that these storms will contain a majority of NSW’s fires. 

“This has been an absolute welcome disruption to the weather pattern and a massive reprieve and relief to so many people. While hotter and drier conditions would likely return in the coming weeks, this particular period of rain is breaking the back of this fire season, no doubt,” said NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Friday.

Bushfire season traditionally lasts until April in Australia. Obviously the extreme fires that have occurred during this year’s season are nothing like what the continent normally experiences. Officials know based on past fire seasons that the worst of it is still yet to come, and they continue to prepare for new fires to start everyday.

Burnt Trees in Australia

The Aboriginal Landscape After The Australian Wildfires

Australian wildfires are not uncommon and the Australian summer holds an annual and expected fire season. The naturally hot and dry climate is prone to fires either by an accidental spark or lightning strike. The recent wildfires however, having started in September 2019 and still burning, have proved themselves to be of greater devastation and exceeding magnitude than normal. They have burned over six million hectares of land, generating smoke that shrouds cities and is causing health concerns. It is estimated that one billion animals  have been killed, and habitats destroyed leaving survivors facing dehydration. Over twenty-five people have been killed and countless homes destroyed. It is an understatement to say that the fires have devastated the land.

In terms of what caused such catastrophic fires, Australia had suffered a long period of drought after seeing a year of record temperatures. Climate change is generally accepted to have played a part in the wildfires, due to the rising global and thus Australia’s temperatures, from unnatural CO2 levels in the atmosphere. This sadly therefore indicates that fires are set to get worse and more intense in future years.

The Indigenous cultures of Australia, who have a deep and profound relationship with the land, saw great swathes of their homes, loved landscapes and sacred spaces swallowed up by flames. In one example, the Yuin people, predominately living in areas of New South Wales are concerned that several sites of cultural importance have been wiped out completely particularly between Mumbulla mountain and Gulaga.

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As the fires ravaged through national parks and other areas, many important Aboriginal sites have been affected. In an article from nature.com, it is indicated that archaeologists and Aboriginal people alike are concerned for these areas but the devastation has not yet been assessed. Even if the fires have not destroyed cultural sites or homes completely, the consequences of by-products such as smoke may have affected stone paintings and sacred natural sites may have been damaged.

In some areas the wildfires have revealed new areas of interest, such as previously unknown sections to an ancient aquatic system over 6000 years old, dating back further than the pyramids and Stonehenge, created by the Gunditjmara people. The fires may have also opened up areas that previously were unavailable for human access, allowing the investigation of new sites. Many Aboriginal areas that are feared to be damaged are relatively new to archaeological knowledge, but nonetheless remain of significant and current value to Indigenous peoples.

In light of the wildfires, many have begun to look to Aboriginal culture for solutions, some Indigenous spokespersons speaking out to re-establish the Aboriginal technique of “cultural burning” which was previously used by Indigenous people to tend to, care for, and protect the land and its inhabitants from such fires.

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Stemming from the profound, unique, and deep understanding of the land that Aboriginal culture has cultivated over hundreds of years, the practice of “cultural burning” is a technique that involves setting controlled fires in areas of excessive debris at the right time of year to prevent larger fires in hotter periods. The exercise, over thousands of years old and perfected by Indigenous cultures, aims to nourish the land, taking into consideration the habitats of animals among other elements.

Oliver Costello of the national Indigenous Firesticks Alliance, was quoted in The Guardian as it being “important for the health and regeneration of particular plants and animals. It retains balance and allows destructive elements to be prevented or destroyed. Animals are able to safely react to the smaller fires and it keeps their habitat safe.”

Before Australia was colonized and its land unfairly taken from the Aboriginal people, the practice of “cultural burning” was regularly undertaken. The practice was skilled and frequent, the nuances of which were arguably lost on the colonizers. Many Aboriginal people today, believe there is a need to return to cultural burning in order to preserve and nurture the land. Local authorities however, have banned it, opting for their own “controlled burns” which Shannon Foster, a knowledge keeper for the D’harawal people, commented to the BBC:

“The current controlled burns destroy everything. It’s a naive way to practice fire management, and it isn’t hearing the Indigenous people who know the land best.”

When sought, authorities have denied previously permissions for cultural burns, despite Aboriginal elders being concerned about the risk of out of control fires for some time. Perhaps though, it is now time to work with and value the ideas of Aboriginal cultures. Utilizing their deep and unique understanding of the land is one way of preserving and nourishing Australia’s beautiful landscape and culture. After all, it is their land too.