Transition

April 17, 2019

BW photograph of a burger restaurant transitioning to the Veggie Grill.

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

The results are clear:  transitioning from a meat/dairy-based diet is not only good for the individual, but for the planet as a whole.  Methane is a major issue-and there are many cows out there.

BW photograph of the upcoming Veggie Grill from across the street.

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

Please do read the articles linked above as they contain much useful information about the interaction between human behaviour and methane levels.  It is important to note that, as the second article points out, methane is also a by-product of decaying vegetation; however, by far the majority of methane released into the atmo is due to human activity-not natural biological processes.  While methane can be stored in the earth’s permafrost, a problematic feedback loop has been created:  human activity (a meat/dairy-based diet in this case) has increased the amount of methane (and other greenhouse gases) released, resulting in the rise of global temperatures.  As the planet warms, the permafrost melts, which then releases more of the stored methane.  That, in turn, exacerbates climate change.

Just as there is a clear and present need to transition to renewable energy resources, so, too, is there a need to transition to less-impactful eating habits.  Carnivores, though, do like eating meat. (Truth in disclosure:  I have been a vegetarian for decades now-the original decision was based on the manner by which the industrial beef/poultry/pork conglomerates raised and produced their products.  For me, the info about the impact on climate change came later and just reinforced the decision.  Still, the smell of bacon remains a trigger…)  Given that we do live in a bio-genetic age, this is one solution to the dilemma for one who likes the taste of beef but is concerned about the environmental impact.  This article reports on a variety of responses to that product.

There is a much older, less biotech solution as well:  eating insects.

The idea of eating lab-created meat or insects may well trigger other reactions.  Indeed, socialization and social learning theory form the basis for what is culturally acceptable to consume.  Given widespread availability (this will be an issue for those living in food deserts) and enough time, such alternatives may well become norms.  For example, when visiting a grocery store, check and see how many soy-based “meat” products there are…these have been mainstream for quite a while.

Take care.

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Relationship

March 28, 2019

BW photograph of the sunrise on the solstice.

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

“Air Force Needs Almost $5 Billion To Recover Bases from Hurricane, Flood Damage”

“40 Years After A Partial Nuclear Meltdown, A New Push To Keep Three Mile Island Open” 

There is a direct relationship between these two reports.  The economic consequences of climate change-charged storms continue to rise.  Sea-level rise is a clear and present danger to coastal populations and infrastructure. (It is not just the Air Force needing to adapt to the effects of climate change-the Navy has issues, too.)  Expanding the use of renewable energy and non-fossil fuel options is seen as one of the main means by which to adapt to a volatile environment.  As such, attention has re-focused on nuclear energy-hence the report about keeping Three Mile Island in operation.

Interestingly, I was on my way back to college when the accident at Three Mile Island occurred.  I distinctly remember looking across and wondering why the highway lanes heading in the opposite direction were so unusually crowded-I was remarkably unaware of the problem.  As per the NPR report above, about 80,000 people evacuated in the days following the incident-some of whom did not return.  The fear of contamination drove people away from the immediate area.   It was also a point of alarm regarding the dangers of this form of energy production.

As per the report, Three Mile Island had its partial meltdown on March 28, 1979.  A few years later (April 26, 1986), the Chernobyl reactor exploded.  Later still (March 11, 2011), the Fukushima reactor had a meltdown following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.  Those two links present information about the damage to the reactors as well as the current status of those geographic areas.  These incidents further exacerbated pre-existing concerns over the reliance on nuclear energy as a primary source of power-a history of which is presented by the Clean Energy Wire.  Countries around the world abandoned nuclear energy as a viable resource.

Climate change has necessitated a new look at the cost/benefit ratio provided by nuclear resources.  Would that be the case if more had been done with wind and solar energy in the years past instead of continuing drill and refine and burn?

BW photograph looking west down Thames Street before sunrise.

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

What if we in the developed world had placed greater emphasis on reducing our power consumptions and throw-away lifestyles?

BW photograph of a plastic water bottle laying amid some plants along a hiking trail.

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

What if we had done both?

Of course, it is less than useful to have a one way view looking back because doing so does not change the present.  However, examining the past does explain how we came to be where we are, so there is value in analyzing previous mistakes so as to avoid them in the present and future.  While we must also be open to exploring alternatives, critical thinking with an eye toward the future in the evaluation of the possibilities is critical.  There are alternatives-nuclear energy is one, geoengineering approaches are being explored by others.

We are in a position where extraordinary amounts of money are required for mitigation and adaptation to the current problems related to climate change-these costs are going to increase.  As such, long-term solutions do need to be found.  They, too, will require investment.  We have lived our way into an incredibly complex problem, which will require multiple solutions.  We must evaluate these options with due diligence and choose wisely, which puts me in agreement with the conclusions drawn in the Vox article linked above.  Some mistakes are, after all, more consequential than others.

Take care.

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

Preview

March 23, 2019

BW photograph of Morgan Run still rushing after a flood even though it was clear that the water had receeded.

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

NOAA recently released a report, and its title says all that needs to be said-“Spring Outlook:  Historic, widespread flooding to continue through May”.  Please be sure to give that link a read as the majority of states and “…more than 200 million people…” are at risk.

This aligns with the information contained in The Climate Report:  The National Climate Assessment-Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, which was published late last year.  That report is also worth a read-particularly for the  breakdown of what geographic areas can expect going forward.

BW photograph of a fallen tree after a flood.

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

BW photograph of debris that accumulated after a recent flood.

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

BW photograph of debris that accumulated after a recent flood.

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

According to The Climate Report, “The recent dominant trend in precipitation throughout the Northeast has been towards increases in rainfall intensity, with increases in intensity exceeding those in other areas of the contiguous United States.” (2018, p. 117)  There are nuances to this, so please do read the report.  Such appeared to be the case when a hard rain fell this past Thursday night-after having rained all day.  As a result, Morgan Run flooded yet again.

BW photograph of tree roots exposed after more flooding.

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

BW photograph of tree roots exposed after more flooding.

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

BW photograph of tree roots exposed after more flooding.

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

The erosion is exacerbated due to the continual washing away of remaining topsoil.

BW photograph of a dead fish after being washed ashore during a flood.

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

Farmers in the Mid-West, who have been struggling with the impact crop tariffs have had on sales, have now watched as historic flooding has destroyed infrastructure and equipment, swamped fields, and swept away livestock.  Over the past few weeks, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has been re-stocking waterways with fish.  Indeed, during the week of March 3, “900 rainbow trout” were released into Morgan Run, as per their email to that effect.  Above is a photograph of one of the four that appear to have been washed onto fishing platform and perished.   As with all aquatic life deprived of oxygen, this fish’s death would have been unpleasant, and that registers on its face.   The livestock that perished in the flooding had the opposite problem, but it would have been no less excruciating.  There really is no comparison here:  most likely no one’s livelihood is dependent on the fish in Morgan Run.  However, families in Iowa, Nebraska, and elsewhere have a long road ahead to recoup their losses.

BW photograph of a short piece of log and other rocky debris after a recent flood.

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

If what happened last week in the U.S., not to mention globally with the flooding in Africa and Asia, is indeed a preview, then the next couple of months will be quite stressful.

Take care.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Volatility

February 1, 2019

BW photograph of the winter sun while it was snowing.

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

We are in the middle of record-breaking temperatures due to the recent polar vortex.  However, by the weekend and into the beginning of next week, temperatures are forecast to rise through the 50s into the low 60s.  That is quite a swing-it was 9 degrees and sunny as these opening sentences were being written, which was yesterday afternoon.  The photograph above was made earlier today as a light snow was falling.  It was 12 degrees at that time.

And so goes the stock market as well.  This article explains the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, while this article includes graphs to illustrate the application to the markets back in October.

Polar vortexes are a periodic occurrence, and scientists have difficulty pinning these extreme temperatures completely on climate change.   However, it does appear that the loss of polar ice (scroll down that link) has played a part and so the human contribution cannot be completely discounted as yet.  Likewise,  the stock market will rise and fall.  Here, the human element is much more clear:  the recently ended partial shut-down (and its potential reinstatement) and various tariffs, as current examples, have rattled investors leading to the peaks and valleys with investments.

As one who is closing in on retirement, the stock market’s rapid violation and adherence to the principles of gravity is attention-getting and disconcerting.  As an outdoors-oriented individual, the inability to go outside due to the profound cold is disheartening.  At least we did not have much snow to move…and the weekend is coming.

Take care.

 

 

Another Dose

January 30, 2019

BW photograph of wet snow clinging to trees while it is still snowing.

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

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about the concept of relativity.  Right now, we are experiencing another strong dose of that.

The weather in this area calls for a temperature of 0 degrees tonight-add in the wind chill and it becomes -17 degrees.  That is cold, frigid, arctic-like, whatever descriptor would appear to be appropriate.  Not at all comfortable to be outside-downright dangerous, in fact.

However, it is not quite the same as this.  These weather patterns are from the same system, but the Upper Midwest has been brutalized by the recent polar vortex.  This is another example of the importance of relativity.  It also points out that no matter how anything is, there is always something bigger, faster, stronger, and yes, colder.  This summer I am sure we will switch to discussing what is hotter.  (As an aside, check out the weather is Australia.)

According to that linked report, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, considered closing all of the schools in the state.  He did not, however, do this because “…one of the things that I’m concerned about is, is when you close a school sometimes, that is the place of warmth and food that is not available elsewhere.”

That summarizes the state of the human condition for far too many.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The Appalachian Mountain Club has these recommendations for dressing for extremely cold weather-this report on NPR brought that link to my attention.  It is quite clear why such temperatures and wind chill present issues for those without the resources to be safe.