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In 2013, Sitkan Michael Mausbach traveled to Thailand and spent five months there, during the “hot season” from January to May.
Known until 1940 as “Siam” Thailand is (per Wikipedia) “…located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula…bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by Myanmar and the Andaman Sea…Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia (Thailand was) the only nation in the region to avoid being colonized by foreign powers…”
The 2013 adventure was a solo one for Mausbach, which he embarked upon as part of an independent research project connected with his undergraduate thesis. During his time in Southeast Asia, he also spent two weeks in the (historically fraught) nation of Cambodia. Mausbach’s particular interest, though, lies in Thailand’s role as a (subjugated) ally of Japan during World War II and the cultural memories of that time.
“Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I developed an interest in the ‘politics of memory’ – specifically how and where memory is explored in a dynamic way. My faculty advisor had lived in Thailand and was a fluent Thai speaker. I also became deeply interested in the Japanese role (in Southeast Asia) during World War II.”
Wikipedia describes the “Death Railway” as a 258-mile railway between Thailand and Burma, “built by the Empire of Japan from 1940–1944 to supply troops and weapons in the Burma campaign of World War II.” Construction was completed using forced labor and resulted in the death of 90,000 Southeast Asian civilians and more than 12,000 Allied POWs.
When I asked Mausbach to tell me more about the “Death Railway” he said he became fascinated with “what went into the story of The Bridge on the River Kwai and why America became so invested in this story. It became like a kind of rabbit hole for me – this particular episode in history.”
“Going into it, I was using my research as (an entry point) for this facet of World War II that is often overlooked. So much of Thai tourism (these days) is oriented toward the beaches of the south, whereas I spent most of my time in the central Thai province of Kanchanburi.”
Kanchanburi (again, per Wikipedia) is home to one of the most well-known parts of the railway… Bridge 277, the so-called ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ built over the Khwae Yai River.
Mausbach also told me a bit about his background and how he came to live in Sitka. “I went to Evergreen State College in Olympia (Washington) with Margot (O’Connell) and got my undergrad degree in Global Studies and International Relations, with a minor in cultural analysis. Then, after SE Asia, I took a seasonal job with the Science Center, and have been in Sitka ever since.”
These days, his day job is as the Manager of Business Operations and Human Resources for Sitka Salmon Shares. He also serves on the Sitka Health Coalition and the board of the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Where does Mausbach see himself in the future?
“I had originally thought of academia, but now more and more I see myself moving into economic impact work, work that honors human resilience, and helps ensure that communities are resilient – economically and culturally.
On Thursday, May 13th the public is invited to hear Mausbach share stories and photos from his travels in Thailand, where he spent time researching the politics of memory and military ruination along the Death Railway. This event is part of Sitka Public Library’s Armchair Travels Speaker Series and will be held via Zoom. The registration deadline is 12pm on May 13th. For more info. or to sign up, please call 747-4020 or email email@example.com.
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The Soupster appreciates a melding of holidays.
Tulip and daffodil greens poked tentatively out of damp soil, eyeing the Soupster, who relaxed on a bench overlooking the harbor.
Rays of sunshine teased him into a summer’s dream of palm trees and golden beaches in faraway places.
Suddenly, a cold breeze snapped him back to the present, as a large shadow obscured the sun.
“Greetings on this fine morning, Soupster!” a familiar voice rang out. “Amazing weather, huh?”
“Morning!” the Soupster replied cheerily, feigning recognition at the dark silhouette. “How’re you doing?” he asked, stalling for time. The Soupster called it the “30-Second Recognition Rule” in which he allowed 30 seconds before admitting he did not know someone. Any longer and you were trapped forever into pretending you knew each other.
“Dave!” he suddenly blurted. “Yes… a beautiful morning. What brings you out?”
“A memorial stroll between showers” said the other man wistfully.
“Well, I’ve dedicated this walk to the memory of the tourists who start turning up and wandering around Our Town at this time of the year,” Dave said.
“I miss the new faces and matching jackets, disposable rain ponchos, and inappropriate fur boots and hats,” he said.
“Yep, the Rona’s been a bummer,” the Soupster said. “But in Our Town we are privileged to be so far ahead of the curve with vaccinations that I feel we’re in a holding pattern, circling until the rest of the world are ready for us to land.”
“Yeah” Dave added. “Have to admit I’ve had a hankering to get off the rock for some time now… Anyway, I’m too busy to leave,” he declared.
“Busy? With what? The Soupster enquired.
“Designing a leprechaun trap,” Dave said.
“What on earth for?” the Soupster asked.
“Well, with St Paddy’s day out of the way, I figure there’re a lot of under-engaged leprechauns looking for a purpose in life,” Dave said.
“What would you do with a leprechaun if you caught one?” the Soupster asked.
“Check its pockets for loose gold. What else?”
“Hmm. Don’t recall anything about trapping in the ‘Recover Your Social Skills in 30 Days’ podcast I’ve been listening to,” the Soupster chuckled.
“Ahh, that’s not all,” Dave added. “Can you think of a more useful or original Mother’s Day gift than a leprechaun?”
“You might be onto something, Dave” the Soupster said. “After all, these little folks are always cheerful, mischievous but hardworking, and have lots of money. What more could a mother want?” he laughed.
“Exactly!” Dave said. “I think leprechauns would sell like Fourth of July fry bread on Our-Town-for-Sale.”
“They’re supposed to be shoemakers. Imagine if we could train them to make Xtra-Tuffs!” the Soupster laughed.
“That would be epic!” Dave agreed.
“Anyway, nice seeing you Soupster, I’d better be off,” he said. “I don’t have long to get this off the ground before someone like Jeff Bezos corks me.”
Adding “I’m Leonard, by the way,” as he strolled off into the sunshine with a spring in his step.
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An Op-Ed from Sitka Citizens Climate Lobby
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Roughly 18,600 trips around the sun later, we see the vast effects of climate change. Just in the past year, we’ve seen hurricanes, forest fires, landslides, heat waves, coastal floods, a freeze in Texas, and human climate migrations – all heightened in an environment of Covid-19 and racial & economic injustice.
Earth Week 2021 is a chance to re-think what we owe our planet, ourselves and future generations. What impact can one person, one family, one town/state/country possibly have??
You and I can be part of solutions to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions, decrease CO2 levels and cut emissions in half by 2030.
We can conserve energy by: turning off lights and computers; insulating our homes; walking, biking, carpooling; taking buses; using LED lighting: retiring old cars for electric vehicles; planting a garden; eating less barged-in beef; and switching from fuel oil heat to electric heat pumps. There are ways to find funding for these more energy efficient ways of living.
We can also speak up about policy to our city and state officials. Cities, for instance, can institute (on-bill) financing for landlords and homeowners to install heat pumps, and other measures, with energy savings paying for these upgrades over a few years.
Businesses can benefit with C-PACE. The Alaska legislature in 2017 opened the way for municipalities that do property assessments to develop “Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy” programs. Anchorage is the first city in Alaska to do so, on April 1, 2021. C-PACE makes it possible for owners and developers of commercial properties to get low-cost, long-term financing which is paid back through an annual assessment on the organization’s property tax bill. Since energy retrofits require local labor, we keep more money and jobs in our communities, too!
As Alaskans, we can remind ourselves about the power of moving water – wave and tidal power can be pivotal, given our thousands of miles of coastline and many rivers. We can also be advocates for electric grid improvements by promoting micro-grids and renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar. Wind and solar combined technology would provide year-round energy.
Individual and municipal actions are not the whole story, though. We also need bipartisan national action. A national fee on fossil fuel production can motivate businesses to invest in green energy and infrastructure that will not only protect the environment but will also save money.
With collected fees paid as a monthly dividend to households, most Americans will be protected from increased prices arising from fossil fuel fees. A carbon-fee-and-dividend bill (re-introduced in Congress as HR 2307) may also inspire international cooperation, with a border tariff placed on goods from countries who do not have comparable carbon fees. Forty countries already have some form of carbon pricing.
These strategies will work. They will strengthen local economies and protect our health by decreasing air pollution. We can all be advocates for our planet by calling or writing our legislators – Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Don Young – asking them to support carbon-fee-and-dividend as a first step.
- Earth Day:
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day – The first Earth Day was (notably) supported by Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers. Earth Day 2016 was the Paris Agreement. Per Wikipedia, the long- term focus areas are Climate Action, Science and Education, People and Communities, Conservation and Restoration, and Plastic and Pollution.
- Climate or Environmental Migrants:
- C-PACE program info:
- Tidal and Wave Energy development:
- Contact Members of Congress:
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