State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Same Road, Different Obstacle

A series of tunnels cut through the rugged landscape.

Last year I was collecting a sample of sediment from a riverbed and spent the day walking up the Neto River to find a good location. When I finished, I noticed a road high on one side of the valley. I climbed to the road and found a tunnel with no lights inside. I looked to see if I could walk around it but found only a shear cliff. My options were to climb back down into the river or walk through the tunnel. So, I began walking.

Gradually, the darkness took over. I stopped about 15 meters in, when I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, waiting for my eyes to adjust. They never did. With my hand on the wall of the tunnel, I slowly stepped forward into the smell of rainwater and sound of creatures moving around. I thought I knew darkness, but not like this. After what felt like hours, I saw a light signaling the tunnel end and practically ran. When I reached daylight, my excitement was quickly dulled. Not 20 meters away loomed a second tunnel. I thought, “Hey, if I made it through the last one, I can do this one.” Then I see the sign “Galleria: 458m”. No way! Half a kilometer long! I turn back and see a sign from the tunnel I just walked through “Galleria: 427m”. Oh. I’m glad I didn’t see that sign on the way into the first tunnel. I shrug and begin walking toward the second tunnel. But then, I hear what sounds like a huge truck coming through the tunnel behind me. For the next three minutes, car after car after car come through the tunnels. When there’s a break, I begin to walk through the second tunnel. But before long, I see the light from a car coming behind me. Several more cars pass including one that stops just ahead but continues on. Eventually, I make it out of the tunnel and a car pulls over. In Italian, the driver asks, “Where is your car? The gate closes at 5 pm. What are you doing?” I tell him “My car is on the other side of the gate, don’t worry.” He looks back at the tunnels I just walked through and says, “Your car is on the other side?” “Yes,” I say, “Don’t worry.” He gives me a skeptical look and drives off.

Stuck at the gate.
Nano waits for the key to unlock the road.

This year, Nano and I traveled the same road but when we turned around we found the gate shut. We were locked inside the road! Just as I was about to attempt picking a lock for the first time, a man pulled up on the other side and called his father who arrived 10 minutes later with the key.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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