Thursday, August 27, 2020

Using Nature to Mind the Gap

Environmental & Science Education
Water and Watersheds
Reduce Reuse Recycle
Edward Hessler

In an enchanting photoessay on NPR, molecular biologist turned photographer, Prasenjeet Yadav shows us what he had the privilege of seeing as well as using: "a being that was both intrinsically natural and intrinsically engineered, a jing kieng jri, a living bridge made out of tree roots. The word comes from the local (phonetic) language called Khasi."

The bridges are made of Ficus elastica roots and are found in the Indian state of Meghalaya ("Abode of the Clouds"). It is profoundly hilly and wet--32 ' (384 ") to 45' (540") of rain per year.

We'd all like to know what it feels like crossing them. Yadav does not disappoint. He said he searched for a comparable experience and finding none describing the crossing as follows. "No, it did not feel like crossing a concrete bridge. No, it did not feel like climbing a tree. Instead, it felt like a fairy tale come to life. And perhaps, in a way, that's what it is."

Yadav notes that they the trees are havens of biodiversity, describes their construction, lives and variations (there is a double-decker among the photographs), the double-edged sword of tourism and why people construct them. Yaday also photographed bridges using the technique of light painting--described in the Wiki entry as "moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph." The results surprised the local villagers, many of whom "often couldn't believe they were looking at their very own bridges."

He closes with a comment by his guide, Bah Drong who when asked what happens to them when they can no longer be used.  "They'll become a part of the forest, my friend."

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