No Thanks

November 27, 2018

BW photograph of a lone maple leaf on a large rock with Morgan Run in the background.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With Thanksgiving now behind us, attention returns to that for which thanks do not apply:  climate change.

The fourth National Climate Assessment report was recently released (here and here).  Despite what the president and other government officials (not to mention the general public) state and may want to believe, it is quite clear that humans have created the climate-induced mess in which we are now find ourselves.  That this report was released on Black Friday is another issue.

Bill McKibben wrote “Life on a Shrinking Planet”, which appears in the November 26, 2018 issue of The New Yorker.  That article leads off with a reference to his piece entitled “The End of Nature“, which was published in The New Yorker thirty years ago.  The more recent article presents a look at the history of choices made and not made by the fossil fuel industry, politicians, political organizations, and those who have supported, knowingly or unknowingly, a culture based on the extraction and use of materials that have led to the over-heating of Earth.  Toward the end of the article, Mr. McKibben describes a poignant visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  He also includes some quotes from John Muir, which have particular relevance to the issue at hand.  One quote stands out:  “I have better thoughts of those alligators now that I’ve seen them at home.”

The reason for the attractiveness of that quote?  It gets to the point of our relationship with nature.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if people spent more time outdoors experiencing the natural world, there would be a greater appreciation for it, and therefore a greater desire to protect it-a greater imperative to elect politicians and enact policies conducive to the long-term viability of the planet.  Indeed, please read the opening paragraph of this article from Scientific American.  What could be done outdoors with some of that time?  And yes, I do very much realize that this blog appears on a screen, and I do spend many hours processing the photos and creating this content on a computer.  However, these photos would not exist without having spent the time walking about.  Outside.

BW photograph of debris piled up after a flood at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of leaves plasterd against a tree trunk after a flood.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Of course, nature is not always benign, which is the way it ought to be.  Were nature to be so tame and predictable, then it would not be worthy of attention and respect.  Lately, though, she has been on a rampage.  That takes us right back to the issue of climate change.  Desertification, droughts, flooding, storms, and wildfires have all been exacerbated by the increase of the greenhouse effect. The melting of arctic ice and subsequent rise in sea levels is already displacing some communities-that, too, will increase.  As viable land becomes more scarce along coastlines and inland areas that are literally drying out, not only will that inflate its value and desirability, but the conflict between social groups competing for that resource will also intensify.

Thirty years are a long time.   Bob Seger in “Like a Rock” muses:  “Twenty years now…where’d they go?  Twenty years…I don’t know.  Sometimes I sit and I wonder where they’ve gone.”  As for the climate, shortsightedness and greed coupled with an (un)healthy dose of denial and obfuscation and ignorance have led us to where we are.

BW photograph of a sycamore tree's roots exposed due to flooding.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What will the geographic and subsequent social world look like in twenty or thirty years from now?  Globally, we may have some time left, but none that can be continually wasted.  Locally, for those flooded and burned out or blown away, time ran out.

Take care.


November 22, 2018

BW photograph of a sunrise at Morgan Run-front lit and silhouetted trees.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The first snow of the season fell late last week.  It was moisture-laden and quickly consolidated when moved just a little.   It was pretty to watch as it came down and made for a nice hike the next day, but a real task to move.

BW photograph of a maple leaf under a layer of sleet.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trees had been shedding some of their leaves as expected for the fall season; therefore, many were available to be blanketed with the snowy/slushy mix.  The above presents a metaphor for this blurring of the seasons.

BW photograph of two maple leaves laying atop snow.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On the other hand, given that many trees still had some leaves, those that fell after the snow presented quite the contrast for the blending of the seasons.

It was 23 degrees this morning, and the daytime high may well set some records for the coldest Thanksgiving.  If that happens, then this day will be about 30 degrees colder than the average for this area on Thanksgiving.  Nonetheless, the sun is out and it is quite beautiful-crisp and clear.  The kind of day for which to be thankful, especially given that rain is in the forecast for Saturday.  In a world where the town of Paradise is no longer that, it is especially important to take stock and be grateful for what we can and have.  And not just on this particular day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.


November 16, 2018

BW photograph of a box of empty bandaid wrappers.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In his book North Dallas Forty, author and former football player Peter Gent makes the distinction between pain and injury.  Pain, Mr. Gent writes, is felt by the player; when it affects the team/organization, it is injury.  Having played football through middle school, high school, and college, I completely agree with that assessment.

The following is a bit of a different take on that distinction.  Much physical, emotional, and spiritual pain has been visited upon the victims and survivors of the most recent (and ongoing) climate disasters.  The number of people killed and missing in the still burning Camp Fire in northern California, for example, continue to rise.  The underlying injury to the planet is reflected by the intensification of storms and fires that has made it necessary to develop and more frequently use superlative descriptors:  megafire (as defined here), super typhoon (as in Jebi and Haiyan), and the proposal of a Category 6 for hurricanes (the current Saffir-Simpson scale goes to five).  Indeed, California’s Governor Jerry Brown, in response to the current record-setting fires burning in his state, has labeled this “the New Abnormal”.

(The link just above contains a discussion about the role climate change has played/is playing in the current California fire season.)

Were that a box of band aids could fix this situation.  Developing a comprehensive and coherent mitigation/adaptation strategy is clearly called for (as are the painful decisions to be made in accordance with such planning); however, the current U.S. administration continues to move in opposing directions.  Perhaps this will make a difference.  At the same time, Juliana v. the U.S. was initially filed a number of years ago, and much damage has been done between then and now.  Given the legal maneuvering, the suit continues to work its way through the courts-meanwhile California, for example, continues to burn.  Records in terms of people killed/missing and property destroyed/damaged also continue to be set.  That is just not acceptable, especially when options are available.

Take care.


November 10, 2018

BW photograph of tree limbs blowing in the wind on an overcast day.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The weather app on my phone indicated it was 41 degrees and clear at 3:30 a.m.  Given that I was already awake, it seemed like time for a walk.  (Photographer’s Note:  The photo above is from a day different from that described in this post.  It was just as windy, though.)

After about ten minutes, it began to rain.  After twenty minutes more, it stopped.  I had either walked out from under a particular cloud or clouds, or the air currents had moved the cloud(s) along, or the cloud(s) had dissipated, or a combination of those three options had occurred.  In any case, the sky was full of stars and puffy clouds.  As the sun began to rise, conditions soon turned into something more like Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day-the wind kicked up and moved a great many leaves about.  It was a bit unpleasant walking into a headwind, but that time was relatively short-lived.

Speaking of which, the last three years are but a blip in geological time.  However, the impact on our culture and the natural environment (locally, nationally, and globally) due to the politics of this era have far-reaching consequences.  Perhaps this, too, will be transitory-time will tell what will happen here with a split government.  The problem is that for far too many, time has stopped.

Take care.


November 9, 2018

BW photograph of a charred log lying among rocks.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Twelve shot dead in a bar and nearby the Woolsey Fire burns.  Senseless gun violence and the impact of climate change.

Also, this Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the ending of WWI.  On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, hostilities ceased.  The adjective “senseless” was used above.  Please read through this article for another application of that term.  Although, as the article makes clear, not all would agree with the assessment leading to the use of that adjective.

Such is the case when it comes to addressing both mass shootings and climate change.  The gun lobby has more than enough political power to prevent any meaningful interventions-the fossil fuel industries occupy a similar position.  Innocents continue to be killed and communities continue to burn.  Thousand Oaks, CA and the surrounding area are experiencing both simultaneously.

Take care.

P.S. This article addresses wildfires in the Plains states.  The differentiation and interaction of weather and climate change is described-as is the role climate change played in the fires as expressed in the interviews conducted by Mr. Frazier.  The creation of a sense of powerlessness, whether through lack of knowledge or teleological argument, is another dynamic at work in the persistence of these issues.  Failure to proactively address root causes mandates continued reactive responses.


November 6, 2018

BW photograph of a sunrise looking out from Wolf Rock.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Morning temperatures were back into the 30s Sunday, with the promise of clear skies.  While that sounded like perfect conditions for a walk in the woods, it can be quite difficult to roll back the blankets and leave a warm bed at godawful o’clock in order to be in the mountains by sunrise.

BW photograph of side lit rocks and trees at Chimney Rock.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Nonetheless, that is what happened-and here’s why:  No matter what it takes, once there, out in that bubble of solitude and peace, a transformation takes place.  The language content of the previous posts is displaced by the clarity of the senses that occurs when in the pre-dawn woods.  It is just me, the sky, and the trees and rocks.  It is so contemplative that almost any human contact is perceived as an intrusion-the bursting of bubble if you will.  The woods, though, are not mine. I do not own them.  They do not exist solely for my benefit.  In fact, it is important that others visit as that is how one learns (hopefully) the importance of the protection of wild places.  Without such experiential contact, there is no incentive to do so.

I do, however, need that bubble.  Therefore, I get up very early so that I am completing the hike when most are just arriving.

It is pouring rain today.

Take care.

BW photograph of Wolf Rock and trees silhouetted against the rising sun.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is one to follow.

Take care.

BW photograph of fallen leaves in a gutter washed against a car tire after a heavy rain.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Not long after the previous blog was posted it did, indeed, begin to rain again, but gently.  At some point late last night or very early this morning, there was a downpour that was accompanied by strong, gusty winds-both rattled the house enough to disturb one’s sleep.  The results of this latest bout of precipitation were clearly evident once the sun arose-there were a lot fewer leaves still on trees.  When the rain falls that hard and that fast, it has nowhere to go.  In the built environ, the water ends up gushing in the streets.

BW photograph of a flooded cow pasture after a very heavy rain.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In open spaces, that much water is unable to soak into the already saturated ground.  On top of that (literally), local waterways again left their banks.  This photograph shows a flooded cow pasture…

BW photograph of a flooded soy bean field after a very heavy rain.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

while the above is a soybean field that is just across the road from the pasture.  A culvert under the road provided a conveyance for some of the water to rush from the pasture to the field.

Vote for the environment on Tuesday.  The planet needs all of the assistance it can get.

Take care.

Weather as Metaphor

November 2, 2018

BW photograph of rain clouds above silhouetted trees.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Our foray into fall has made a U-turn as the mid-30s temperatures have doubled.  We have gone from frost warnings to thunderstorm warnings.  It rained very early this morning and more of the same is forecast for a bit later tonight; the clouds as displayed above did not release any moisture as of the typing of this sentence.

The end scene of the first Terminator movie uses such a cloud formation as the visual metaphor for the coming conflict with Skynet-the self-aware computer system that decided to eliminate humans and resulted in multiple sequels, prequels, and hard-to-categorize but less-than-equals.  Imagery of such ominous-looking clouds has been used in such a way for so long that this has become a cliché.

At the risk of such, we are most certainly at a defining moment in U.S. politics.  There is debate over whether this is the most ___ (fill-in-the-blank with whatever negative adjective as is desired) political season in history.  Given that we like to think of ourselves as the model democracy, it is remarkable as to the extent to which efforts are being made to exclude so many from participating in the process by voting.  It must be remembered, however, that the decade of the 1970s had more bomb explosions than any other; that the 1960s had cities burning from riots; and that the 1860s had a full-on Civil War.  None of that, by the way, is in any way meant to minimize the carnage and loss of life in Pittsburgh or the recent mail bombs sent.  Such behaviour is inexcusable and not justifiable at any time.

It must also be remembered that words matter.  What one says or does not say, especially when such acts as those above are not specifically and categorically condemned, gives tacit approval for their continuance. The use of rhetoric to fuel the politically-charged divisions within the U.S., and in other areas of the world, does nothing more than harden positions into what is now commonly referred to as tribal factions.

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s elections in the U.S., civility must not be the loser (as has already been demonstrated time and again).

Take care.