GOOD

Why Mobile Technology Matters for the World’s Nomadic Peoples

An ancient way of life discovers newfound viability by drawing on surprisingly modern innovations.

Camels marked with painted brands, though no phone numbers. Image by Mark Hay

A few weeks back, in a passing conversation I heard a story about a strange innovation cooked up by some nomads in a far away country. Looking for a better way to identify their herds and locate them when they wander off, these folks had apparently decided to paint their phone numbers onto the side of their livestock in lieu of abstract brands. To date, I’ve been unable to substantiate this tale (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, as I’ve seen such painted-on characters used as quasi-brands at camel markets in East Africa in the recent past). But even if it is apocryphal, the story is far from absurd. It speaks to a real and verifiable revolution in the world’s nomadic traditions, fueled by the proliferation of cheap communications technology. These simple devices are rapidly conquering the challenges of modernity that have long chipped away at the viability of itinerant herding, laying the grounds for nomadism not just to survive into the new millennium, but to thrive—as few would have imagined—to the benefit of us all.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

What Parents Everywhere Can Learn From This Trailblazing Toy Maker

Zandraa Tumen-Ulzii spreads the gospel of the puzzle.

On a side street in the less-than-touristy eastern section of downtown Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, tucked behind a tent-shaped building half-gutted by fire, you might just manage to find a four-story pink building. Notched with knobby, knot-shaped decorations, it’s distinctive for the neighborhood, but invisible from the nearby main thoroughfare, Peace Avenue. Yet inside this hidden low-rise is one of the world’s most whimsical, engaging, and underappreciated cultural galleries, the misleadingly named International Intellectual Museum.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

The Secret World of Dinosaur Smuggling

Mongolia battles the black market to preserve its natural history

Tarbosaurus bataar

Last fall, Mongolia gutted the old Lenin Museum in the heart of its capital, Ulaanbaatar, to make way for the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs. Unbeknownst to many, Mongolia is something of a dinosaur bonanza, home to the first dinosaur egg finds in the 1920s and quarries that, even today, yield dozens of fossils in a single dig. So it’s probably high time that the country throws its weight behind one centralized facility to highlight this unique aspect of their national history (and cash in on the inevitable throngs of dino-crazed tourists). But the museum didn’t come together in a bid for national glory or tourist dollars. It sprung up because outsiders have been pilfering the best of Mongolia’s pre-human history for years—that is, until two years ago when the government decided to finally act on reclaiming their heritage.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles