Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cities of possibility

Istanbul’s position at the crossroads of two continents is looking like an increasingly precarious perch these days, with violent conflicts erupting in Syria and Iraq to the south and Russia and Ukraine to the north. Domestically, electoral victories in 2014 by the country’s longtime ruling party demoralized those energized by last year’s mass anti-government protests. But neither strife nor political stagnation seems to prevent forward-looking initiatives from cropping up all around Istanbul...

Amid challenging and often depressing times, it was revitalizing to seek out some positive, inspiring initiatives for the 2014 GOOD City Index. As it did with last year's inaugural list, the quarterly, U.S.-based magazine GOOD again seeks to celebrate the "cities around the world that best capture the elusive quality of possibility" -- not the ones where everything is necessarily working right, but ones with a heartbeat of "creativity, hustle, and civic engagement."

Istanbul, which the editors ranked at #6 on this year's index, certainly qualifies. Though the energy of last year's Gezi Park demonstrations has long faded, around the city, activists of all stripes are buckling down to attend to the task of trying to build a better future.

Read the rest of my entry in the 2014 GOOD City Index: "Istanbul, Turkey: Now the real work begins"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fishy business in Istanbul

Back in the 1950s, it wasn’t unusual for fishermen plying the waters off Istanbul to land tuna weighing hundreds of pounds, or to have one of the massive fish leap out of the sea and over the prow of their boat. Dolphins cavorted alongside fishing vessels that hauled in lobster, oysters, razor clams, four kinds of crab and eight varieties of mussels.

“Fishermen in their 70s and 80s tell stories depicting Istanbul like an island in the middle of the ocean. It’s as if we’ve moved to a totally different place since then,” says Defne Koryürek, the founder of Slow Food Istanbul, which has organized an annual holiday to draw attention to the city’s rapidly depleting waterways and to try and reverse the tide.

Celebrated each October with fishing competitions, film screenings, children’s art activities, talks, and special meals, the holiday is named after one of Istanbul’s favorite fish, the fatty, flavorful — but now endangered — lüfer (bluefish)...

I've been following the issue of overfishing in Istanbul and the fight to save the lüfer for a few years now, previously covering the start of the campaign to increase the minimum catch size; the inaugural Lüfer Bayramı; and the dangerous world of illegal fishing for Treehugger.com.

Now you can read the rest of my latest article on this subject, "Istanbul Chefs Band Together To Save Their Favorite Fish," on Zester Daily.