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History and Culture of the Khmu People

The Khmu, pronounced kəˈmu, people is a large minority ethnic groups that is spread across the central highlands of Asia including sections of Northern and Central Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Southwestern China. Throughout their range, they are recognized as a separate ethnic group with the exception of those living in China where they fall under the official designation of undistinguished ethnic peoples (rough translation from Chinese). They are known by various names including Khamu, Kemu, Khammu or Khơ Mú depending on the specific area where they live but as would be expected, share a common language with only slight variations in dialects being noted and generally recognizable customs across the entire region. Khmu Population Distribution As can...

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Why Biking?

Like many people my age, I grew up riding a bicycle. It wasn’t just for fun, but was practical transportation from my rural home a few miles outside our small Wisconsin town to wherever I wanted to go from the age of 10 or so until I got my driver’s license.     Now more and more people are biking, and the reasons are many and varied. After years riding a bike very sporadically (as evidenced by the dust and cobwebs I needed to clean off each time I took mine out of the garage), a few years ago I finally ditched my old 10-speed and got a new hybrid bike with a comfortable seat, which I’m trying to use more...

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Banning or Taxing Disposable Plastic Bags: Not So Green

  I won my junior high school poster contest celebrating the first Earth Day. I've recycled for over 20 years. I follow family members around the house turning off lights and adjusting the thermostat. Those are just some of my bona fides as a suburban mom concerned about the environment who preaches (and practices) “Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle”. Therefore it was quite disconcerting to learn that my disgust for disposable plastic bags and support for banning them may be misplaced. Not that those annoying, flimsy plastic receptacles are good for much other than lining the pockets of those who make them. Au contraire. For one thing there are far too many of them – between 200 and 300 million bags...

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We're Working to Save the Craft

      The traditional Khmu bag, known today as Nature Bag, Earth’s Greenest Bag™ is endangered.  The craft of making it rapidly is disappearing from large areas in Laos’ north. A traditional bag can take days to make.  But only a couple of hours, scissors, a needle and some thread are needed to make a bag from non-woven polypropylene.  Markets in Northern Laos offer thousands of large bags made of that earth-damaging material.  China, sometimes only an hour walk away, sends many products into Laos packed in these harmful bags.  It's easier for the Khmu to use that cheaply-acquired material rather than Jungle Vine® to make a carry bag, even if it lasts only a few weeks rather than...

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