How Lions Can Save the Maasai


A lion roared in the distance as the sun set over the plains near Kenya’s Nairobi National Park. Hearing the noise, Nickson Parmisa, assistant chief of the local Maasai population, turned on his solar-charged battery, causing his metal and plywood house to be bathed in a blue light. As his wife cooked potato stew using a gas burner powered by cow dung, Parmisa turned on his iPad to track a radio-collared lioness that had been on a livestock-killing spree.

The lion, nicknamed Athi, was nearby, the iPad confirmed, but Parmisa was at ease.

“It’s good when the lion roars,” he said. “That means she’s not hunting. It’s when they are quiet you have a problem.”

Lions have traditionally been the Maasai tribe’s greatest adversaries. They are a deadly threat to the cattle and other livestock that are both an integral part of Maasai culture and the tribe’s greatest source of wealth. In the not-so-distant past, young Maasai men had to kill a lion to pass their initiation into adulthood. But now the tables have turned. Despite the ongoing livestock predation, lions may be the tribe’s strongest hope for preserving their way of life.

Read more at BBC Travel.


The Last Eco-Warrior

Photos courtesy Judy Goldhaft

Photos courtesy Judy Goldhaft

“I don’t want to beat it,” Peter Berg says. “I want to seduce it.”

It’s March 2011, and the ’60s radical-turned-ecological visionary is dying. A tumor has paralyzed one of his vocal chords, leaving his voice scratchy and distorted, sounding, in his words, like a gravel truck unloading. “I want to seduce it into leaving,” Berg repeats. “Get it drunk and leave it in the gas station bathroom.”

Peter Berg spent his life fighting — for civil rights, to end the war in Vietnam, and for cleaner, more holistic use of the earth’s natural resources.

Intense, charming, abrasive, driven, Berg was known by friends and adversaries for never giving up and never compromising, no matter how big the opponent or how insurmountable the odds. His mission: To save humanity from its pathology of self-destruction.

“I’m an extreme personality. I tend to think in extremes,” he says. “It’s a planet-wide natural disaster we’re living through.”

Is he daunted by the enormity of the challenge? Berg leans forward in his chair, squinting hard at the absurdity of the question.

“No, I’m turned on by it,” he answers firmly. “It is the challenge. Oh no no, small groups of people cause enormous changes. I’ve done it.”


War On Drugs Targets Immigrants For Chewing The Traditional Plant ‘Khat’

khatThree Maasai men sit near the back of an open-air restaurant and nightclub outside Bisil, Kenya, a small town about 100 kilometers south of Nairobi. A pile of small leafy sticks rests on the table in front of them.

“This thing brings people together,” said Simon Suyiaka, 25, gesturing toward the twigs. “You have all kinds of friends, from lower class to upper class. Because we all chew.”

He’s talking about khat, a stimulant common in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, better known in Kenya as miraa.

In contrast to the laid-back Kenyan scene, khat is illegal in the United States, caught up in a dragnet of policies of both the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Its primary active component, cathinone, a relative of amphetamine and caffeine, is a Schedule I controlled substance, and arrests are on the rise. Read more at

See more coverage of the War on Drugs at

“Indescribably insane”: A public school system from hell

CorbettWant to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.

 In 2013, Philadelphia Public Schools were barely able to open their doors, thanks to Governor Tom Corbett deliberately starving them of funds. “It’s indescribably insane,” one activist says. “It’s an absolute atrocious mockery of anything related to public leadership.” Read more at


A Proper Maasai Wedding Starts with a Cup of Fresh Cow’s Blood

Kenya_Vice_05The blood was sweet, and thicker than I expected. A skin had already formed on the liquid seconds after it squirted from the cow’s neck. I downed the full cup in one gulp so I wouldn’t hold up the line of Maasai men waiting for their own mug of morning blood.

It was the morning of my friend’s wedding on the plains outside Nairobi, Kenya. Soon the bride would arrive in her white dress and a Pentecostal minister would perform the ceremony. But first, the men shared the blood from the freshly slaughtered steer. Read more at Munchies, VICE Magazine’s food channel.

Find all my Munchies stories here.


South Kensington: A Neighborhood on the Edge

S Kensingston

Photo by Hidden City Philadelphia

South Kensington is a neighborhood on the edge. Surrounded by gentrification on three sides, the decaying industrial corridor struggles to build a bridge between the past and the future. We dug into what’s at stake in a three-part series for Hidden City Philadelphia:

Weighing Directions as South Kensington Evolves: Should the neighborhood strive to preserve its industrial past, or will developers succeed in bringing hundreds of new residents to the area?

Future of American Street Hinges on Soko Lofts Parcel: How did Soko Lofts grow from 160 units to 320 to possibly 600? And what will happen to the parcel now that the developer has put it for sale?

On American Street, a Growing Manufacturer Holds On: In the center of the debate over the future of American Street is a deli meat company, Emil’s Gourmet. Will the company be swallowed up by coming residential development, or will the street, to the dismay of some residents, remain industrial?