Stormy Weather

May 28, 2019

BW photograph of a hat outside of a destroyed house in New Orleans post Katrina.

Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With all due respect to the song by the same title, this post is about weather.  The lyrics of the song, though, are entirely appropriate as they reflect the bone-weariness of loss.  Rain is often a metaphor for feelings of sadness, depression, and grief-climate change induced weather patterns featuring inundations of water and scouring winds leave such emotions in their wake.

We are on the cusp of the 2019 hurricane season, which begins June 1, and the National Hurricane Center has posted its prediction.  Come December 2019, we will be able to assess its accuracy.  In between now and then, many will have to deal with the reality, not the prediction.

Meanwhile, with the official start of the hurricane season just a bit ahead of us, the Midwest has already been hammered by significantly violent tornadoes .  A couple of days ago, El Reno, OK was hit again.  Significantly, that area is also dealing with flooding from excessive rainfall that has caused waterways to exceed their banks. (As I am writing this, a weather update on the radio just advised that the Washington D.C. area could have thunderstorms accompanied by wind gusts of “up to 22 mph” this afternoon.  That hardly seems worth mentioning in this context.)

Given that climate change is one of the central themes of this blog, my teaching, and certainly my personal reading, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the severity and scope of the problem.  After having read David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, I realized that I did not.  Truthfully, that statement may not be entirely accurate, but the reports and statistics presented in the pages that follow certainly support the book’s opening sentence:  “It is worse, much worse, than you think” (pg. 3).  Indeed.  As the Guardian review linked above reports, and the book itself clearly documents, it is the speed by which the environment has been altered that is most shocking.  And it is not nearly finished as CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise, not fall.

If there is an upside to this, it is that, as Wallace-Wells describes, the human race has the ability to make in-roads so as to minimize the more extreme of the outcomes of our behaviour.  Having said that, he also very clearly states that millions around the world, including in the U.S., are already dealing with the catastrophes that accompany the rise in the planet’s temperature.  Those in the Midwest mentioned above, for example, have had yet another look into the maw.

Take care.

Photographer’s Note:  The above photograph was made outside of a destroyed house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Groan

May 21, 2019

BW photograph of a leaning tree becoming uprooted.

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

The upper section of this tree is being supported by another on the opposite side of the trail.  Given that this was quite a breezy morning, there was pronounced groan emitted as the one systematically rubbed against the other.

BW photograph looking up at a falling tree being supported by another.

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

It was a sound not unlike that which I stifle when rolling out of bed in the morning.

Take care.

Protection

May 16, 2019

BW photograph of a plane flying into a cloud bank.

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

I fly.  Not too much.  But enough.

BW photograph a plane flying into a cloud bank.

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

Therefore, the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and the subsequent grounding of that fleet caught my attention.  (I had had a flight scheduled that most likely would have been on one of those planes for just after they had been grounded-otherwise, I would have faced the decision of whether or not to make that trip.)  Later, there were additional reports about quality control problems at Boeing.  That these issues appear to be related to the efforts to remain competitive with other manufacturers’ aircraft exacerbated the concern.  Yes, statistically I am more likely to be injured or killed on my daily commute than when flying.  However, when planes go down, often resulting in scores of deaths, one takes notice.  Given that it now appears Boeing knew about the issues with the 737 Max 8 in advance of the first crash, one begins to seriously wonder about the company’s priorities with regard to safety, communication with constituents, and quality control.   That the FAA has allowed Boeing to largely regulate itself does not inspire confidence.  More on this point in just a bit.

BW photograph of the cloud bank into which a plane just flew.

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

On a related note, HBO is currently showing Chernobyl, which is about the nuclear reactor explosion that occurred in 1986.  I am currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl and have started to watch the series.  What is striking, if not surprising, is how similar the issues with that disaster are to the ones that led to the current problems at Boeing-obfuscation, secrecy, and regulatory concerns are examples.  At Chernobyl, those working in the facility, their families and neighbors in Pripyat, the emergency personnel called to the scene, and anyone/anything downwind of the reactor, paid that price.  The book is definitely worth a read.

While the scale of these disasters are not equal, Chernobyl presented a genuine global risk, the pain of loss felt is a common denominator.

So, this begs the political question:  to what degree are governments responsible to protect their citizenry from problematic business practices?  The relationship between Boeing and the FAA is one example.  That the U.S. was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max 8s adds to the mix.  For another example, think about the issues presented by Facebook with privacy in general and the 2016 election in particular.  On a different note, what if the governmental practices are the problem?  That is certainly a large part of the issue with Chernobyl.  In the U.S., the current administration systematically gutted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   There is enough in the Mueller Report and the Attorney General’s summary to be concerned about as well.

With regard to corporate malfeasance, it often takes individuals within the company to step forward and become what are known as whistleblowers.  There are laws to protect such individuals as otherwise problematic, if not outright illegal, behaviour may not come to light.  The Obama administration had a complex relationship with that practice.

If the above is not enough, there is also the content of this interview.  Please listen for the use of the term “whistleblower” toward the end.  Here is a link to the NPR book review of that which is discussed in the interview.

One conclusion to draw from all of this?  Caveat Emptor.

Take care.

 

Soiled

May 16, 2019

BW photograph of the intersection of several fallen logs on a trail.

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

Yesterday presented another beautiful morning to be in the woods.  The temperature started out around 46 degrees and warmed by about 10 more as the sun moved up into the sky.  That was accompanied by a persistent breeze that kept the chill present.  Still, the sky was clear and the birds were singing.  They were most likely also happy that the rain of the past days had moved on.

BW photograph of a pair of soiled panties with some soiled napkins laying near the head of a hiking trail.

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

The hike ended with (literally) a bit of unsightliness, though.  Laying near the trail head was a pair of soiled panties and the napkins that appeared to have been used for the clean-up.  There are no worries about the bodily function as there are no bathrooms for quite a distance-this may also have been embarrassing for the person in question.  There are any number of circumstances that could have created this scenario, so it is best to make no judgments without knowledge of those details.

At the same time, I have also encountered other soiled underwear, used diapers, and used condoms during walks/hikes in various locations.  It certainly is better for visitors that follow for the depositors of such detritus to remove and properly dispose of the materials.

Of course, that also applies to anyone who leaves any kind of trash behind.

Take care.

 

Biodiversity

May 11, 2019

BW photograph of a feather upon the ground.

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

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon provided an eloquent commentary about the threat to biodiversity.  Please do give this a read and/or listen.

BW photograph of a bush, a pine tree trunk, and rocks.

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

There really is nothing more for me to add.

Take care.

Photographer’s note:  the feather above is not from a Seychelles Magpie Robin.

BW photograph of the Monocacy River on a foggy morning.

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

“Unprecedented threat” is how the recent U.N. report characterizes the human relationship to another one million species with whom we share the planet.

BW photograph of food trash laying at the base of a trash can.

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

Humans are but one of eight million species that populate Earth-and we are the one creating the clear and present danger to that one million.

1A’s host Joshua Johnson draws a critical parallel to genocide-after all, estimates for those killed during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as one example, range from 500,000 to over one million.  There are of course, other genocides in human history.

NPR aired this report, and here is a link to the U.N. IPBES media release.

In keeping with the current administration’s focus on climate change denial, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the perceived economic advantages of polar ice melting.  As the panelists for the 1A discussion point out, this example of (extremely) selective attention ignores the larger global consequences resultant from the loss of polar ice.

Importantly, the U.N. report does point out that we, the humans of Earth, can still intervene in this destruction.  Individual states, cities, and corporations in the U.S. are making efforts to bring us into compliance with the Paris Accords.  This, though, also needs to be part of a nuanced review-the parameters of which are discussed by the 1A panel.  Please do listen to the full discussion.

Take care.

Comfort

May 5, 2019

BW photograph looking up at a streetlamp in Baltimore, MD.

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

Comfort takes many forms.

Yesterday was a damp, chilly morning.  Rain was in the forecast, but had not as yet arrived.  As such, it was a good day to get up early and take a walk around the Charles Village part of Baltimore, MD.  As is the norm, my eyes ranged from the ground to the sky.  The streetlights near Johns Hopkins contain scrolling reminiscent of those seen in Detroit.

BW photograph of chairs with blankets outside of a coffee shop on a chilly morning.

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

I think I mentioned it was a bit chilly.  Hot coffee is one of the best companions on such walkabouts.  This particular shop, Karma’s Cafe, provided an additional courtesy for those who wanted to sit outside for a bit.

The rains came later and hard…

Take care.