Environmental Jeopardy

March 28, 2017

Toilet in Lower 9th Ward house

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having failed on health care, the President has now moved on to dismantling the United States’ climate change initiatives via executive order.  Given Secretary Pruitt’s belief system (and remember, a “belief” is that which one holds to be true, even if there is no evidence for its support), he was an ideal pick for this administration’s Environmental Protection Agency.  Both the President and Secretary Pruitt are admitted climate change skeptics.

As the President has indicated that he does not read much, he most likely missed the article entitled “Climate Change: 7 Things You Need To Know” from the April 2017 issue of National Geographic-this is currently on newsstands and is worth a read.  Here is a link to an earlier National Geographic article specifically discussing the president’s agenda.

This is an explanation of executive orders and what can be done about them-it, too, is an important read.  The executive order in question is aimed at the Clean Power Plan-the Obama administration’s means by which to scale back greenhouse gas emissions.  It is worth noting that the Clean Power Plan itself was blocked by the Supreme Court.  Central to the current administration’s goals is to return jobs to the coal industry by eliminating the environment as a concern.  There are a couple of problems with this thinking:  the first is that the coal industry has largely been mechanized, and so there is less need for human labour.  The second is that there are other forms of energy that are less expensive, natural gas, for example-not that that resource is free from environmental concerns.  Technology and market forces make going backward in time quite difficult for that industry.  Nonetheless, this will most likely mean an increase in jobs for various lawyers in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

This executive order sends exactly the wrong message to other nations.

For decades, the United States at 300+ million people produced more greenhouse gases than did China at 1+ billion people.  Perhaps returning to being the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (the efforts to scale up gas mileage-the CAFE standards-are also slated for review by the current administration) is part of what will make America “great” again…Americans do like to be #1 (China currently leads in greenhouse gas emissions). Yes, this is sarcasm-it is really difficult to have tonal inflections and facial expressions while using a text-driven medium.

Photographic Note: The photo included here was made in New Orleans in December, 2008, which was 3.5 years after Hurricane Katrina.  Smell is another sensory experience that cannot be adequately conveyed via text, however, the scent of mold and mildew emitted by this house was quite pungent.  Our sense of smell forms some of the longest-lasting memories-all these years later, I can still smell that house.

Take care.

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Shinrin Yoku

March 26, 2017

BW photograph of trees against an overcast sky.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

At the beginning of the first chapter of her new book The Nature Fix, Florence Williams introduces and discusses the Japanese concept of shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”.  Essentially, this is a deeply immersive experience of being in the woods.  Ms. Williams includes a review of Japan’s work ethic, which makes taking time for forest bathing more than just a pleasant experience.

Yesterday was sunny and nearly 80 degrees-early this morning it was 44 degrees, overcast, and quite damp.  Much, much chillier and monochromatic.  Nonetheless, it was good to take the time to practice forest bathing.  The last post referenced Maryland’s parks-the photographs included here are from Morgan Run, the source of many other photos throughout the years and a favourite place to visit.  Prior to reading that part of Ms. Williams’ book, I was unaware of the term shinrin yoku, however, the concept and benefit was very familiar-it easily translates to American culture.  Part of what makes this such a deeply satisfying experience is the opportunity to turn-off the inner chatter and outer technology, which includes figuring out exposures/compositions and putting the cameras away; sitting quietly upon the rocks; being still; and focusing on the individual sensory experiences:

BW photograph of the water running at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Close the eyes and listen to the water run.

BW photograph of the water running at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Cover the ears and watch the water run.

BW photograph of trees against an overcast sky.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Do both and turn into the wind to feel the air move over the skin.

BW photograph of a single boulder mid-stream.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Sit upon the rocks and experience the damp and cool invade the body.

This is one of the best ways to truly feel alive and at peace.

Take care.

America – Only Smaller

March 25, 2017

BW photograph of a section of the upper end of boardwalk at Ocean City, MD.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Maryland is nicknamed “America in Miniature” because it encompasses many of the geographic features of the rest of the country.  If you start in Baltimore and drive west for about 2 1/2 hours,  you will be in the mountains of Western Maryland-an area not unlike the photographs from the previous post-they were made in a portion of West Virginia, which is just a stone’s throw from Maryland.

BW photograph of a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean from a balcony.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

If you head east instead, in about the same amount of time you could be standing on the beach looking at the Atlantic Ocean.  In between the extremes are apple orchards and farmer’s fields.  Small towns and larger cities.  According to the 2016 Census population estimates, Maryland is home to a bit over 6 million people while over 322 million people live in the United States.

BW photograph of the upper end of the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a lone walker on the beach at Ocean City, MD.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The photographs included here are from Ocean City-a resort town that has not as yet been inundated with the Spring Break and summer vacation crowds generated by those populations.  As such, it is quite a pleasant place to be in the off-season.

BW photograph of a "No Profanity" sign on the Ocean City. MD boardwalk.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In addition to geography, Maryland also shares many social features present elsewhere.  Like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, Maryland is experiencing an opiate overdose epidemic.  As such, Governor Larry Hogan has convened an Opioid Task Force, something written about elsewhere on this blog.  The death of Freddie Grey has Baltimore intimately linked with Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO.  Baltimore and Atlanta, GA. have aquariums where you can walk among the fishes and other aquatic creatures.  Maryland also has many fine state parks, several of which have been discussed on this blog.

The point being made here is that it is possible to find that for which one is looking.  Want social problems?  They are here.  Want beauty and solitude?  It most certainly can be found.

“Maryland:  American in Miniature”.

Take care.

 

Spring 2017

March 20, 2017

BW photograph of a lone robin in a snow covered tree.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today, March 20th, is the Vernal Equinox, which is the official first day of Spring.  The photograph above was made yesterday morning following a bit of snow Saturday night-a lone robin sits atop the tree and is puffed up against the cold.  Yesterday did eventually warm as it moved along, and the snow has now largely melted.  The robins most likely appreciate that.

Take care.

The Budget and the Birds

March 16, 2017

BW photograph of Klee Mill Road after a snow storm.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The president’s preliminary budget was announced today, and it certainly does appear to represent the campaign promises made.  Given the large focus this site has on climate change, it is significant that the EPA is slated to be cut by about 31% as discussed here.  In addition, monies for least-developed nations to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change/sea level rise/desertification would be slashed.  There are other environmental-related initiatives/programs also identified for de-funding.

The gutting of such efforts is particularly compelling as it is not yet above freezing today in this part of the world, and the ground is covered with a concrete-like mass as a result of the most recent snow/sleet/snow storm and well-below freezing temperatures.  It is painful to see some robins, whose circadian rhythms are programmed for spring temperatures and conditions at this time of year, be unable to find the requisite food and water.  (The need for breeding and certain foods would have triggered the flight north toward a usually more temperate clime-the unparalleled warmth of this past December, January, and February could have disrupted their behaviour.)  These kinds of alterations to migratory patterns as a result of climate change is a major concern. Nature has its own timetable for evolutionary adaptation-one not based on short-sighted, ego/ethnocentric, year-to-year federal spending, and politics.  There simply may not be enough time to develop the necessary accommodations.

It is important to recognize that the announcement of this budget is just the start of the process of negotiation, so there is more to be revealed as to the final budgetary outcome.  In a similar vein, NPR posted this report a few days ago, which deals with the proposed health care plan.  If you are concerned about this budget’s impact on environmental issues (or health care for that matter), then it is worthwhile to make that position known by writing a letter to your Congressperson(s) in the House and Senate.  Be part of the process.

In all fairness, it is important to the democratic process for those who do support this proposed budget to contact their reps as well.  It behooves everyone to be sure to investigate these issues with enough due diligence so as to make an informed decision and one not based on confirmation bias or distortion.  Using multiple legacy-based sources helps.  That is what a democracy is supposed to be.   (As an aside, that is one of the issues with the recent controversy over the proposed health care plan-some recognized they would be worse-off if the Affordable Care Act were indeed repealed and replaced, which prompted contacts with those in power.  Brexit is another example if we want to go global.)  Unfortunately, the Citizens United decision brought much more money and the influence that buys into American politics.  This makes it ever more important to have individual voices be heard (or read, as it were).

NOTE:  For those reading outside of the U.S., this is certainly a bit of a look into our politics.

Take care.

 

 

 

Take care.

Distance

March 13, 2017

BW photograph of a tractor in a field during a snowstorm.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Distance is another measure of both time and place.  Traveling a couple of hours and nearly two hundred miles west into the mountains brought a drop in temperature to about 24 degrees and enough of a snowstorm to create whiteout conditions.

BW photograph of clouds moving over snow covered trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was quite beautiful to watch the transition of the sky and the landscape.

BW photograph of clouds over snow covered trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a large cloud above some trees after a snowstorm.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And now the time and physical distance between such weather and here is about to close.  The forecast is calling for 12-18″ of snow starting tonight and lasting well into tomorrow.

That changes the perspective.  Part of what made the snow beautiful out there, was not having to do anything but sit in the warmth and look out the window.  Now, back home, the need arises to move it as work will eventually beckon…which leads to yet another point-of-view.  The western part of the state relies on snow and cold as there are a couple of ski resorts in the area.  Given the overall warmth of this winter, February 2017 was the second warmest on record, it has been quite difficult to have, make, and keep snow on the slopes.  This storm will be of economic benefit to those establishments and a welcome opportunity to those who enjoy such activity.

Take care.

A Short Walk

March 9, 2017

BW photograph of a road overpass amid some trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was back into the 60s locally and thus a nice day for a walk.  It was especially good to get outside as snow showers are about to make another appearance per the near forecast.

BW photograph of a road overpass and amid some trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This also made me think of Florence Williams’ recently published book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, which in next in line for a read.  Her previous work, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, was worthwhile and is very much recommended.  Ms. Williams and Mary Roach (another favourite author) have similar writing styles and cover topics in which I am interested.  Anecdotally, I have long known that being outdoors, and especially in the mountains, makes quite a difference in my general outlook on life.  It will be interesting to see the science behind that effect.

Take care-and get outside.