Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Herd mentality

In Kentucky, a destructive form of coal mining known as mountaintop removal has, inadvertently, given way to a resurgence in elk populations. The mining method employs explosives to blow apart jagged shale and limestone mountains, and the debris from these explosions often creates a grassy plateau. These plateaus have bloomed with shrubs and trees as many of the mines have been decommissioned, creating opportunities for new uses such as farming and hiking.

They’ve also been discovered by the region’s elk. “Elk are classified as an intermediate feeder,” a biologist with the Nature Conservancy told the New York Times. “They’ll graze, they’ll browse, they’ll eat acorns and stuff that are falling from trees.” For well over a century, however, elk had vanished from Kentucky, hunted to extinction before the Civil War until being reintroduced by conservationists in the 1990s. Even upon reintroduction, however, the animals had trouble locating enough food. Now, they’re finding all the vegetation they can eat growing where the mines once were. Today, Kentucky has some 13,000 elk, all of them subsisting on the grassy plateaus of coal country. “Elk can survive just about anywhere,” said a biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They’ve just got to have some grass.”

Read more at the New York Times

Three wheels good

According to the Washington Post, Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, “may be the only city in the world where the municipal authorities found themselves grappling with a surfeit of electric vehicles.” 

The source of Ranchi’s unexpected boom in EVs can be traced to a surge in electric rickshaw purchases by people who see tuk-tuk driving as a lucrative side gig. Why electric? The e-rickshaws are slightly smaller and slower than gas-powered ones, which means that until recently, they weren’t subject to motor vehicle regulations. “No permit, no license, no documentation required,” as one Ranchi e-rickshaw dealer put it. As their numbers grew, authorities began regulating them, but already there are 7,000 e-rickshaws plying the city’s streets.

Ranchi
Ranchi, India. Credit: Biswarup Ganguli

The proliferation has caused some problems, including traffic snarls on the city’s main thoroughfare and stolen electricity as drivers power up wherever they can. But the popularity of the e-rickshaws has some wondering if India might become a leader in electric vehicle usage. EV sales rose sharply in 2019, with two- and three-wheeled vehicles accounting for the bulk of the growth. The government is even considering legislation that would require all two- and three-wheeled vehicles to go electric by 2026, though it has been put on hold by the pandemic.

Read more at the Washington Post

Solo riff

La Gare is a jazz club in Paris that was once a railway station. Now, it has transformed again, from a raucous social scene to an intimate venue of concerts for one.

Like all nightclubs, La Gare closed to the public when France’s lockdown began, but it reopened once social distancing rules eased — to only a couple of patrons at a time. Customers can enter the club alone or with one other person with whom they live. Once inside, solo musicians play a brief mini-concert directly to the attendees. It’s a highly intimate experience that even the performers themselves have had to get used to. “You’re being closely watched and that can be a bit nerve-racking for the first 30 seconds,” one bass player told the Guardian.

Each performance lasts only a few minutes, allowing the club to serve a large number of patrons — in just a few weeks, it has hosted over 3,000 mini-concerts. “Even before the coronavirus we would ask people not to talk during the concerts and never turn their back on the musicians,” said the owner. “In most places, they say the customer is king. Well, at La Gare they’re not. The music is king. And we want people to give it their full attention.”

Read more at the Guardian

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