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Through his Vanishing Cultures Project photographer Taylor Weidman documents threatened ways of life. Regular readers of The Big Picture will recognize his distinctive work from his previous entry here on the Mustang region of Nepal. Weidman writes of the threatened nomadic culture in Mongolia: "Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world's largest remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. The ger (yurt) camps that ring the capital city Ulaanbaatar house a permanent population of displaced nomads. There, they live without running water or a tangible use for the skills and crafts that were practiced on the steppes. The younger generation is no longer learning these essential aspects of their nomadic heritage." -- Lane Turner (29 photos total)
A young nomad herds his animals by motorcycle after an early spring snowstorm. Mongolian herders adopt technology quickly and it is not uncommon to see trucks and motorcycles replacing work animals. (Taylor Weidman/The Vanishing Cultures Project)

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Our collection of the best photojournalism of 2012 concludes with a look at the months of September, October, November, and December. While hurricane Sandy devastated the American northeast coast, numerous powerful typhoons wreaked havoc on several Asian nations. The battle for Syria further devolved into a bloody abyss as the conflict dragged on well into its second year. Protests against austerity measures roiled Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other European countries, China picked a new leader during their once-a-decade power transition, and a new burst of violence scarred relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Through it all, the ordinary lives of people in our multifaceted cultures shined bright. [Editor's note: The Big Picture will not publish during the week beginning December 23. We will return on December 31.]-- Lane Turner (43 photos total)
A woman, dressed in a Halloween costume, takes a rope jump from an old water pipe bridge 144 feet high in the Siberian Taiga area outside Krasnoyarsk, Russia on October 28, 2012. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)

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