7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist

June 24, 2019 by  
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Planning an international trip can be pretty overwhelming as it is, but it can be even harder for eco-friendly travelers looking for sustainable activities that promote cultural travel and ecotourism. Luckily, more and more travel companies and agencies are making it easier to travel with the environment in mind. Start off by researching green destinations, travel packages and green hotels at websites like Lokal Travel , Green Pearls or Responsible Travel . The World Travel Market Responsible Tourism website is a great resource, as it gives out awards each year recognizing worldwide travel organizations in categories such as “Best for Reducing Carbon & Other Greenhouse Gases” and “Best for Reducing Plastic Waste.” Look for hotels and resorts that have been certified eco-friendly or green, that have clear evidence of protecting the Earth, that are built with environmental sustainability in mind or that have made the investments to truly change their business models toward long-term sustainability. Once you’ve chosen a destination and accommodation, look for travel companies that are trying to help the local culture or the land in a positive, significant way and have hired local employees with fair wages. While these organizations are usually small and focused on a few specific places, there are larger companies doing good work as well. Sadly, plenty of “volunteer” programs out there are aimed at making the client feel good about themselves, rather than making an effort to make a positive difference on the destination (or at the very least leave it unharmed by the presence of visitors). If your volunteer trip costs money, find out where the money is going. Related: Natural Habitat Adventures launches the world’s first zero-waste vacations Of course, flying is something to keep in mind, as the carbon emissions from airplanes are high. Don’t be afraid to stay close to home or travel by train to somewhere near you. If you do decide to fly, as many of the destinations below might require unless you are a local, do some research into the most sustainable airlines and consider carbon offsets to ever-so-slightly lessen the impact of this form of travel. Here are seven eco-friendly activities to enjoy in destinations around the world. Watch the Northern Lights in Norway Not only is Norway one of the most environmentally conscious countries on Earth, it is also one of the most beautiful. Its capital city of Oslo was named Europe’s greenest capital by the European Union in 2019. When it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, don’t do it as an afterthought. Take the time to plan a trip with local guides that benefits the economy. Consider an immersion program with the indigenous Sámi people, who have recently embraced sustainable tourism as a vital source of local income. Volunteer in the Galapagos, Ecuador An undisputed leader in ecotourism destinations worldwide, the Galapagos are home to some of the most exciting and important lands on the planet. Almost 100 percent of the island chain is protected as a national park , and visitor fees go straight toward conservation efforts. Look for a company that organizes volunteer trips rather than sightseeing; the latter creates unnecessary trash and carbon emissions. Book an eco-friendly safari in Kenya It’s no secret that poaching is one of African wildlife’s greatest threats. Eco-friendly safaris and lodges provide alternative employment to poaching in Kenya, all while supporting the community and putting money toward the upkeep of nature preserves. A good tourism company works hand-in-hand with the local people (such as the Maasai tribe in Kenya) to protect the land and animals. Consider staying on conservancy lands, where the area has been set aside for wildlife conservation and is strictly regulated. Related: 7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa Help save elephants in Thailand The tourism industry is beginning to see elephant riding for what it is — cruel. What was once a misunderstood and popular bucket-list item is now one of the main proponents responsible for the rise of ecotourism. Skip the elephant ride and opt for a trip to an elephant rescue center, where your money will go toward the betterment of these animals rather than the exploitation of them. For a day trip, check out the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, but if you want to spend a week or more volunteering, the Surin Project is another great choice. Go hiking in New Zealand New Zealand is world-renowned for its luxury ecotourism (such as “ glamping ”) as well as plenty of hiking opportunities that let tourists submerge themselves in the natural environment without doing any damage. Another thing to consider: Air New Zealand recently got rid of all single-use plastics from its entire fleet of planes. That means no plastic bags, cups or straws are being used on any of these flights, resulting in about 24 million less pieces of plastic being used each year. Visit animal sanctuaries in Costa Rica Costa Rica pledged to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, and with 25 percent of its territory protected as national parks or biological reserves, it is setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the world. The country is known for its abundance of eco-friendly accommodations and wildlife sanctuaries. Check out the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula or the Jaguar Rescue Center in the Limón Province. Stay in self-sustaining accommodation in the Maldives With more than 1,000 islands making up this archipelago, environmental awareness and protecting the ocean is a vital part of life in the Maldives. For example, Soneva Fushi Resort has been completely carbon-neutral since 2014. It has an on-site recycling program, and all the water used at the resort is desalinated. Ninety percent of the waste produced is recycled, including 100 percent of the food waste , and all of the facilities run on the energy from solar panels. Images via Derek Thomson , Claudia Regina , Peter Swaine , Marcel Oosterwijk , Bruce Dall , Jeff Pang , Michelle Callahan and Selda Eigler

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7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist

Repurposed shipping containers turned into solar-powered Cycle Hubs

June 4, 2019 by  
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Bustling urban areas around the world are seeing a major increase in bicyclists cruising through their streets, some of them on very expensive electric bikes. To offer extra security for these pricey rides, savvy company Cyclehoop has come up with the an innovative solar-powered bicycle storage center made out of repurposed shipping containers — Cycle Hub. A leader in the world of bicycle parking solutions and infrastructures, London-based Cyclehoop is constantly working to provide cyclists with secure storage and proper infrastructure. They work in a wide range of products, from locks and racks to solar-powered riding paths. Related: An elegant car center in Thailand is made from 8 repurposed shipping containers The company’s most recent addition is the Container Cycle Hub, a repurposed shipping container that safely stores bicycles. The cube-shaped container is small enough that it just takes up a single car parking space, but is still spacious enough to hold 24 bikes. The interior of the bike hub is installed with “gas assisted two tier racks” that pull out so that the bike can be easily wheeled into place before being elevated up to the top rack. The hub’s sliding doors open and close with a mechanical lock for easy, keyless access. The doors are made out of perforated panels and allow natural light to filter through the interior, but are opaque enough to reduce the visibility from the outside. The containers are also equipped with solar-powered motion-sensor lights for added visibility and security. + Cyclehoop Via Treehugger Images via Cyclehoop

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Repurposed shipping containers turned into solar-powered Cycle Hubs

Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

May 29, 2019 by  
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The San Francisco Bay Area is notoriously expensive for both renters and buyers. But one enterprising young couple has found a way to live in the beautiful city on their own terms by building their very own tiny home . Nicolette and Michael spent just seven months constructing their dream home. Although it is only 300 square feet, it comes complete with a sleeping loft, a full kitchen and a little reading nook for the studious couple. The young couple was inspired to build their own home for a number of reasons. With Michael being a full-time student at CAL, they had to stay in the Bay Area; however, after realizing how expensive the area is, they decided to enjoy the financial freedom that comes with building their own tiny home. Additionally, they were inspired to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle where they could reduce their footprint on the planet. Related: This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui As they set out on their tiny home journey, the amateur — but ambitious — builders decided to do most of the work themselves, accepting help from family and friends along they way. Built on a 28-foot long trailer, the home is clad in metal and wood siding with plenty of windows that flood the interior with natural light . According to Nicolette, the interior design was inspired by an industrial farmhouse aesthetic. The home is bright and airy with white walls and high ceilings. To the left, the living room is compact but comfortable with a loveseat that pulls out into a futon. A beautiful silicon-gel fireplace keeps the space warm and cozy during the winter months. The main wall is clad in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that provide plenty of storage space. At the heart of the couple’s tiny home design is a sweet little reading nook that was built onto the end of the structure, past the main living area. With two large windows that open, this space is perfect for snuggling up with a good book or creating artwork. Between the living space and the kitchen, the couple installed a work/dining space consisting of two desks under a wall of windows. On the other side of the space is a compact metal kitchen area along with an oven with a four-burner stove and even a full-size refrigerator. A barn-yard door separates the living space from the bathroom, which has a full shower and vanity along with a composting toilet . Above the kitchen space is the sleeping loft accessible by a metal ladder. White shiplap walls along with two horizontal windows turn the tiny space into a soothing oasis. + Nicolette Notes Via Apartment Therapy Images via Nicolette and Michael

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Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

The toll of tourism: Can Southeast Asia save its prized natural areas?

May 29, 2019 by  
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From Thailand to Bali, a huge increase in tourists, many from China and other rapidly developing economies, is straining sensitive ecosystems to the breaking point. Some countries are trying to control the boom, with a few closing popular destinations to allow damaged areas to heal.

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The toll of tourism: Can Southeast Asia save its prized natural areas?

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

May 8, 2019 by  
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When you are ready to explore the country, why not take your home with you? Sure, there are motorhomes and travel trailers to choose from. You could even pick up a Sprinter van. But for a real adventure, you could tootle about in a skoolie. If you didn’t catch the play on words, a skoolie is a converted school bus made into a tiny home on wheels . Couple Robbie and Priscilla have converted a school bus into their own travel-ready abode through a process of trial and error mixed with some frustration and a dash of luck. The couple wanted the exceptional 210-square-feet of open space that a school bus allows so they could bring along their pet cat and feel like they had more of a home than an RV. The 1998 Thomas School Bus was the inspiration that drove them forward with their plan. Related: A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile The conversion took a year and a half to complete, with many obstacles along the journey. For example, discovering leaky windows required a complete replacement. Then, a blown gasket kept the project in park for several months. If ever there was a reward worth the labor, this homey project is it. As a result of their efforts, the couple was able to take to the road in March in a cozy, relaxed dwelling. The lengthy, flowing space is well lit with myriad windows throughout and white cabinetry lining one side. The gray laminate flooring accents the stainless steel appliances and is complemented by the cedar tongue-in-groove ceiling. Storage is tucked in several areas including beneath the raised bed, near the ceiling in the kitchen and under the couch in a sitting area. The tiny home’s unusually large bathroom features tile work alongside glass shower doors, and the bus also has two outdoor showers for convenient clean-up. Unlike most RVs, this skoolie features both air conditioning and a fireplace, which suits the couple well as they begin their trip in Canada and Alaska, planning to later hit all 48 contiguous states. + Going Boundless Via Curbed Images via Going Boundless

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Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

January 23, 2019 by  
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The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a group of 28 companies that produce plastics and consumer goods, announced last week that it has pledged to spend $1.5 billion over the next five years to reduce plastic waste. Global companies like  Exxon Mobil , Dow DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell and BASF are all part of the AEPW. The investment will go toward building waste collection infrastructure in Asia and Africa, designing waste-management systems in cities close to rivers that transport waste to the ocean, educating governments, cleaning up highly-polluted areas and funding startups that are developing technologies to prevent plastic waste. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic As the plastic waste problem continues to grow, 8 million tons are now ending up in the oceans every year, and this is resulting in bans on some single-use plastic products. According to the AEPW, 90 percent of global ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers. More than half of the “land-based plastic litter” that leaks into oceans comes from five Asian countries: China , Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A spokesperson for the AEPW said that none of China’s major plastics and chemical groups are part of the alliance, but the team is hoping to change that. While most of the alliance members are plastic makers, there are two that make consumer goods: Procter & Gamble and Henkel. More are expected to join the group in the near future. Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever have already made individual pledges to transition their packaging into materials that are recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Related: Nestle ditching plastic straws, water bottles to reduce plastic waste In an October report, IHS Markit, a London-based information provider, said that 59 percent of global plastic waste comes from single-use plastic packaging. “While there is no single answer to the issue of plastic waste in the environment, we are collaborating to promote infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation and clean-up efforts to keep plastic waste in the right place,” said the AEPW website . + AEPW Via Reuters Image via Monica Volpin

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Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years

May 8, 2018 by  
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Kids could be especially vulnerable to climate change -related health risks, and a new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) article once again sounds the alarm. The authors say climate change “threatens to reverse the gains in global child health and the reductions in global child mortality made over the past 25 years.” While the impacts of climate change could be felt by all humans, the authors say they’ll be disproportionally felt by poor people and children . 88 percent of diseases attributable to climate change appear in kids under five, according to the World Health Organization. The new paper delves into studies about how climate change could impact children’s health and calls for better preparation. CNN cited paper co-author and Memorial University pediatrics chairman Kevin Chan as saying weather events tied to climate change that have impacted kids’ health include Hurricanes Harvey or Irma . Pathogens like the Zika virus or extreme heat could also put children’s health at risk. Related: AAP warns of the impact of global warming on children’s health Chan told CNN he, along with the paper’s other author Rebecca Pass Philipsborn of the Emory University School of Medicine , aimed to reveal “there’s very little research and evidence around children. A lot of the research is very, very broad and tends to look more at adult populations. I don’t think they factor in the specific impacts on children themselves, and I think more research is needed in that arena.” Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health executive director Mona Sarfaty, who wasn’t involved in this new AAP article, told CNN, “The danger to children is real and is already witnessed by physicians in the US…They are more vulnerable to the heat-related increases in air pollution that come from fossil fuel exhaust, because their lungs are still developing. Outdoor play also makes them more prey to insect vectors carrying dangerous infections.” Chan told CNN, “We really need more efforts into addressing climate change to protect our children.” + American Academy of Pediatrics Via CNN Images via Pixabay and Eoghan Rice/Trócaire via Trocaire on Flickr

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Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years

11-year-old discovers rare 475-million-year-old fossil in Tennessee

May 8, 2018 by  
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While enjoying an evening walk at Douglas Lake in East Tennessee , 11-year-old Ryleigh Taylor stumbled upon a magnificent discovery: the 475-million-year-old fossilized remains of an ancient sea creature called a trilobite. Taylor brought her find to the University of Tennessee , where it was examined by paleobiology professor Colin Sumrall. “Typically when we look at fossils of trilobites, they molt when they grow,” Sumrall told WATE.com . “So what happens is, when the trilobite skeleton just crumbles into hundreds of little pieces. To find one where all the pieces are intact, it’s actually a pretty lucky find.” Related to modern crustaceans, spiders and insects , most closely to horseshoe crabs, trilobites were a widespread arthropod group during the Cambrian period, reaching 60 different species at its peak. The group began to shrink during the Devonian period, then eventually went extinct in the wake of the Permian extinction. Named trilobite for its “three-lobes” body structure, the group is thought to be one of the first organisms to experience vision. While some trilobites could not have been seen without a microscope, others, such as isotelus rex , could grow to be several feet in length. Related: Treasure trove of Triassic fossils found at Bears Ears Taylor was thrilled with her discovery. “To find something like that, it’s really really cool,” Taylor told WATE . “I looked down while I was walking and I found it, I just saw it.” Taylor hopes that her unexpected fossil find will inspire other young people to get outside and explore. “I can show kids that are my age that they don’t have to sit inside and play games . They can actually go outside and find different things,” said Taylor. “To find something like that, it could spark this youngster into a whole career,” explained Sumrall. “Maybe she’ll become a great paleontologist one day.” For now, Ryleigh Taylor is simply content to continue exploring. Via The TeCake Images via  Depositphotos (2)

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11-year-old discovers rare 475-million-year-old fossil in Tennessee

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