Clarity

February 26, 2019

BW photograph of a distant tree line on a foggy afternoon.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There are many issues for which looking into the future and projecting outcomes is a difficult proposition.  The variables are such that clarity is difficult to achieve.

BW photograph of trail erosion at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The escalating effect of climate change is not one of those issues.

BW photograph of the dunes and beach erosion at Bethany Beach.

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

The Human Element, James Balog’s latest documentary, deftly picks up where Chasing Ice left off.  Not only does it reference that earlier, and ongoing project, The Human Element broadens the subject matter.  As with Chasing Ice, the imagery presented is immediate, powerful, and, as a result of that, quite humbling.  I have seen, firsthand, the effects of hurricanes and floods.  I have seen active and abandoned coal mines.  I work in an area where belching smokestacks are present-not to mention a nearly 100-mile highway commute to that job.  In other words, I have (as most do) a personal connection to the Water, Air, and Earth elements as presented in the documentary.  However, other than my parents taking me to see a local grocery store burn when I was a child, my experience with a large, active, fire is much more limited.  (I have seen burned areas in the North Cascades.)  Having said that, I can still remember the smell of the meat cooking and the sound of the bottles bursting-the cackle of the flames and their contrast with the night sky.  I remember having watched that fire with a child’s sense of awe.  What was once a bustling store was, quite literally, a hot mess.  I had never seen such a thing before.  It has been over five decades since watching that store burn.   Within Psychology, this experience would be considered an example of episodic memory.  This type of memory is formed when a combination of sensory stimuli (visual, somatosensory/tactile (touch), olfactory (smell), auditory (hearing), or gustatory (taste)) is accompanied by a strong emotional response.  It is memory for the experience, not the time-I cannot remember my exact age or the date of that fire.  (Now, it is also important to mention that the recall of such memories may, in fact, be distorted.  That is a subject for another time, though.)

I say all of that because of what Mr. Balog presents in the “Fire” segment of the documentary.  The notion of watching a fire race down a hillside toward your home can be nothing short of terrifying.  I know some folks who have been close enough to some of the California fires so as to have had ash fall on their cars-to have been able to see flames off in the distance from the highway.  Others who have had to cancel trips into the wilderness because of wildfires.  So again, my experience with what is referred to as “mega fires” in the documentary is entirely vicarious.  Other than the desire to provide first-hand photographic documentation of such events, I am OK with that.

Just as it is important to remember that the images in Chasing Ice are relatively old, one must also keep in mind that the mega fires documented in The Human Element have since been eclipsed in most metrics, including deaths.  That fulfills a point discussed in the film.

And that is reason for the clarity about the impact of climate change.

The human element is, indeed, the key.

Take care.

P.S.  None of the above is meant to be read as a minimization of any of the elemental impacts presented in the film.  Indeed, being trapped in a house with rising flood waters would present a similar experience to the progression of a mega fire.

Poof

February 22, 2019

BW photograph of the mini-falls at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And like that, 5+ inches of snow and ice has (mostly) melted away.  Temperatures rose significantly yesterday and the sun was bright and shiny.  By Sunday, temps are to be in the low 60s.  In between, it looks like more rain will fall.

BW photograph of a lichen covered flat rock in Morgan Run.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That seems to be an appropriate way to introduce this report, which is part of Vox’s “Weather 2050” project.  The parameters of this report present a very provocative conceit-the comparison between cities to demonstrate temperature differentials as a result of climate change by the year 2050, which, as an obvious aside, is not that long from now.  The section entitled “What climate change means for the United States” is a macro look at the issues presented by an increase in temperature.  It is very important to critically think about the ripple effects of said changes-if there are less vegetables available due to drought, for example, what is the subsequent impact on pricing?  What then, is the corresponding impact on family budgets?  Personal health?  The same can be said for home temperature regulation-heat and/or air conditioning.  (The link below about the National Climate Assessment provides additional commentary on this effect.) Continuing with the Vox report brings the reader to the “America is warming fast.  See how your city’s weather will be different by 2050” link-this provides a micro look at a specific locale (apparently based on the geographic location from which the article was accessed).  Spending time to digest all of this information is recommended.

Importantly, the world does not have to end up this way.  However, the climate will not “right” itself-significant systemic adaptations and mitigations are required and essential.  That will require a much greater, and more immediate, focus on climate change as a global issue.  Indeed, this article demonstrates some efforts being made in Europe to call attention to the need for the proper action.  Students in the U.S. have filed suit against the federal government because of the impact climate change is having, and will continue to have, on their lives. (This is another article about that same issue.)

Yes, “poof”, grammatically, suggests a much more rapid change than what did actually occur with Wednesday’s snowfall.  I chose that word specifically, though, because of the compression in time with which we are now faced in regard to climate change.  The impacts are clear and present in the now and, as per the 2018 National Climate Assessment, they will only worsen as time moves on.  The time to take dramatic action is a matter of years, not decades or centuries.  Given the amount of time contained in the millennia of this world’s existence, this might as well be “poof”.

Take care.

Remember

February 19, 2019

BW photograph of Detour with Double Pipe Creek flooding its banks onto a road.

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

As we are bracing for another round of snow, sleet, and freezing rain (which is to begin around four in the morning), it serves as a reminder of the “Record Rain and Flooding of 2018” in the Mid-Atlantic region as documented by NOAA.  The above photo was made on August 6, 2018 in Detour, Md.  I drive through there with some regularity and have become accustomed to checking the water level, especially after heavy rains.

BW photograph a small waterfall at Morgan Run.

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

The same can be said for Morgan Run…

BW photograph of water run-off after torrential rains.

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

or anywhere there is the possibility of the over-abundance of water rising above its banks or surging down an incline.

BW photograph of a sycamore root system after it has fallen against an overpass.

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

Indeed, one must also be concerned about the toppling of trees whose root systems are no longer able to hold in the overly-saturated ground.

BW photograph of snow atop fall leaves.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And so 2019 has begun with seemingly more of the same.  Ground around here has the spongy-crunch, tundra-like feel that comes when the frozen precipitation of several snow/sleet/freezing rain storms melts as the temps rise and freezes again when the temps drop.  Sidewalks heave and pot holes appear as well.

This is also not to be read as a complaint, although it is quite useful to have enough warmth to melt that mess without having to wrestle it into submission.  Other than the polar vortex of a bit ago, we seem to be in a pattern where storm systems with low temperatures and precipitation move though only to be followed by more spring-like conditions.  No, this is much more of a meditation on what may well be this area’s norm moving forward.

Of course, this is the same dynamic that is leading to the melting of the polar ice, global droughts, and sea-level rise.  Having broadened the subject, it is important to note that Dr. Wallace Broecker has died.  Please do read the linked remembrance of his key contributions and early warnings.  It is unfortunate that we must ponder what would have happened, where we would be, if folks had paid more attention in the 1970s.

Take care.

Oppy

February 16, 2019

BW photograph of a flooded ore pit in winter at Oregon Ridge.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The above photograph is decidedly not from Mars.  Frozen water, though, does figure importantly into this post.

Please give NPR host Scott Simon’s tribute to Mars rover Opportunity a listen-it is quite poignant in its own right.

To a photographer who has not as yet traveled outside of North America to make photographs, the idea of documenting a world that has not as yet been seen is a long-held standard.   It was this notion that drove the initial publication of National Geographic, a magazine I grew up with and which served as an early, early inspiration for becoming a photographer.  Making these types of images is also increasingly difficult to do so on this planet-not impossible, just more difficult.  Opportunity and Spirit did that in a way that no human at this point possibly could.  That they did so, especially Opportunity, for so long beyond their spec is beyond remarkable.  This is, indeed, a loss.

Their data was instrumental in our current understanding of such a far-off and inhospitable world.  As our climate worsens, some argue the imperative for inter-planetary habitation.  (Of course, there is nothing preventing our species from recreating the same type of long-term damage done here on another planet, but that is for another post.  If interested, do a search of the subject “space junk” and see what is found.)  Mars has long been identified as the possible solution and, without the information obtained by these explorers, such a possibility would remain much more in the realm of fantasy.

One must also remember the scope of the NASA personnel behind these machines’ success.  Mr. Simon acknowledges that, and also speaks well to their grief over the ending of Opportunity’s transmissions.

Take care.

48 Hours

February 11, 2019

Bw photograph of Main Street in Lexington, VA.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This has been a remarkable winter in terms of temperature swings.

BW photograph of the Virginia mountains looking out from Lexington, Va.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The above photographs were made on a day that started out at 25 degrees and eventually reached the low forties-the sun was bright and shining.  Quite warm given the recent polar vortex.  The clouds, though, are a clue as to the weather on the way.

 

BW photograph of trees as seen through an active snowfall.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A couple of days later, another storm system moved in and produced the infamous “wintry mix”-snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  When the above photograph was made, the precipitation was of the variety first on that list.  It was relatively light and characterized by large, gently falling, flakes.  It was a beautiful snow.  The kind that makes winter enjoyable.  After a bit, though, it warmed to just above freezing and turned to sleet-not so much to look at and much less fun to in which to be.

Take care.

Climate Addendum

February 6, 2019

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

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

This is an addendum to the previous post.

Tuesday night, the president made no mention of climate change in the State of the Union Address-here is a transcript.  (This version has also been fact-checked by the reporters at NPR.)  There certainly has been talk about declaring a “national emergency” (although that also was not in the speech) in order to fund border security.  That term, “national emergency”, which does trigger some presidential power, has not been used for climate change by the president.  One should also not expect that to happen.

In light of that, this headline (and article) would certainly make a different argument.  One issue, and I am not a legal scholar, is that climate change is not an unforeseen problem:  it is a well-known entity, but one that is denied or minimized in a variety of ways or flat-out ignored.  Therefore, the term “emergency” may not apply as per the National Emergencies Act-this report provides an overview of the Act and the political ramifications involved with its invocation-specifically as the president has threatened its use.

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

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

This is the link to Mr. Balog’s interview about the new documentary The Human Element, which was mentioned in the previous post.  It is well worth a listen as there is much to be said about the political conflicts that arise with climate change.  Mr. Balog describes the movie as operating of the premise that humans are as elemental as the Earth, fire, water, and wind.  As Mr. Balog states, “We are in nature.”  I think he also very nicely sums up this issue when he says “Climate protection equals people protection.”  To further that point, please read this report.  Himalayan glaciers are theorized  to be responding in much than same manner as arctic ice as a result of climate change.

BW photograph of Detour with Double Pipe Creek flooding its banks onto a road.

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

It must be understood that climate change does not respect borders or boundaries-there are no walls to build, unless one talks about adaptation efforts to control rising seas.  (Importantly, Mr. Balog does provide an example of that type of wall in the interview.)  From a climate standpoint, what the United States does or doesn’t do impacts the Maldives.  What China does or doesn’t do impacts Tangier Island.  This is truly a global issue wherein some already are paying a terrible price.  For others, that time is yet to come.  Some may have the resources to insulate themselves.  For a little while longer.

Make no mistake-climate change does not disappear simply by ignoring it.

Take care.

P.S.  I know there are a lot of links in this post.  I suppose the entirety of what is written and linked here is very much summarized in the first and last sentences.  The evidence, though, is important-particularly for the political context in which this is written.

Climate

February 5, 2019

BW photograph of a neuron-shaped break in an ice-covered creek.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was 73 degrees in Washington, D.C. today.  That set a record.

Tomorrow (February 6) on NPR’s Fresh Air, Mr. James Balog is to be interviewed regarding his new documentary, which is entitled The Human Element.  Along with Chasing Ice, Mr. Balog has used his prodigious photographic skills to create images of the environmental consequences of climate change-he remains a voice critical to the need for intervention in the processes that are driving the heating of the planet.

Congressional Democrats are “holding two climate-related hearings” tomorrow as well.  It is helpful to listen to that NPR report for its summary of the political perspective by which the U.S. has addressed this issue recently, and for how the political climate regarding climate change looks going forward.

While politicians talk, NOAA has published the data, and it is not pretty.  It does, however, continue to demand attention.  I usually say “time will tell” as to the outcome of issues.  The key here, though, is that time is running out.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see if climate change is mentioned in the State of the Union speech tonight.  The degree to which that happens will give a sense as to the priority this issue has received.

Take care.