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.

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Injury

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.

Transitory

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.

The Calm Before

October 25, 2018

BW photograph of a light-painted scene with the full moon in the background.

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

It was 34 degrees this morning, crisply clear, and lit by a full moon.  (Photographer’s note:  The above is a rather poorly done example of light painting. This was a 20 second exposure-the lighting was supplied by moving the headlamp in a circular motion to illuminate the foreground.)  While walking across the ridge line a bit later, the full moon was setting on the right as the sun was rising on the left-it was pretty cool to be able to see both simply by looking one way or the other.

BW photograph of pieces of a decayed tree trunk.

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

All of that is to change tomorrow with the arrival of the first fall nor’easter of 2018.  As always, such things must be put in perspective:  Super Typhoon Yutu ripped through the Northern Marianas Islands with winds in excess of 180 mph.  This is a quote from the linked NPR report:

“Meteorologists described the storm as not only “Earth’s strongest storm of 2018” but also “one of the most intense hurricane strikes on record for the United States and its territories.” The more than 50,000 people who live in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands faced a storm surge of up to 20 feet and rainfall of up to 10 inches in certain areas.”

As is this:

“The typhoon’s intensity escalated at an “unbelievable” pace prior to hitting the islands, according to meteorologist Steve Bowen, just two weeks after Hurricane Michael’s intensification in the Gulf of Mexico stunned meteorologists, too.”

That these two storms (Yutu and Michael) both accelerated to such a degree in their later development is worrying.  Time will tell if this is to be the trend.

Take care.

Winter 2018/2019

October 20, 2018

BW photograph of Morgan Run with blurred water due to slow shutter speed.

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

A chilly start to the day makes for a crisp walk in the woods.

BW photograph of a tree truck laying next to a large rock with direct sunlight.

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

Yesterday morning began with temperatures in the high 30s-the coldest morning of the year thus far.  This morning was a bit different-temperatures were in the mid-50s, but the rain from last night left the air heavy, damp, and a bit cold.  Rain is again in the forecast for tonight followed by temperatures once again in the high 30s for the early morn.

Not to jump too far ahead, but NOAA has released its forecast for Winter 2018/2019.  This is well worth a read for those in the U.S. who are interested.  According to this information, some of the areas affected by the recent hurricanes have “…the greatest odds for above-average precipitation this winter.”  (Several of the hiking trails I frequent are still running with water and/or are soggy and muddy from all the rain that has fallen in this area over the past few months.)  Drought conditions will continue in some areas and be reduced in others.  NOAA’s current forecast also states “No part of the U.S. is favored to have below-average temperatures.”

Time will tell as to the accuracy of this particular prediction-the report explains some of the variables that could change what is actually experienced.  As such, NOAA does update the forecast on a regular basis.

It is useful to remember that weather is local and climate is global.  While the NOAA forecast is more to the local weather-end of that spectrum, and the recent IPCC report is at the global climate-end, they both reflect patterns established by an overall warming planet.  As such, while it may mean that some have less snow to shovel this winter, which may or may not make those folks happy depending on one’s feelings toward snow, the overall socioeconomic impact is much greater.  How will Alaska, for example, cope with its increased and continued warming? (It is worth noting that linked article is from 2016.)

Take care.

Beauty

October 13, 2018

BW photograph of hay rolls in Antietam.

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

That which is considered beautiful is subjective and very much a culturally defined term.

BW photograph of Burnside Bridge at Antietam.

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

A cool, crisp October morning with a bright sun rising in the east provided some measure of that criteria.

BW photograph of the Dunkerd Church at Antietam.

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

It was a beautiful morning for a walk.

That well over 20,000 men were either killed, wounded, or went missing here in 1862 defies the imagination and stands in very stark contrast to the feel of this place on this particular day and time.  The battle at Antietam was the “single bloodiest day” in United States history.

Gen. Robert E. Lee has been quoted in multiple sources as having said “It is well for war to be so terrible, lest we grow fond of it.”  Indeed.  And yet, the Civil War in the U.S. continued until 1864; then there was WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan-the latter is ongoing.  These are just some of the overt wars for the U.S.-although there has been no declaration of war since WWII.  That list does not include the covert activities nor the ones for which we supply one side against the other as in Yemen, for example.  We provide Saudi Arabia with arms and support in what amounts to a proxy war with Iran.  The violence of the Civil Rights Movement and the riots of 1967 and 1968 are not included, yet were bloody in their own right.  Globally, we could discuss the fighting in many other places (Myanmar) or the threat of such elsewhere (Bosnia and Herzegovina).  One does not have to reach the point of taking up arms to be destructive.  Think about the belief systems and public policies that support racism and destroy the environment, to name two, both here and around the world.

It is so very helpful to get outside and see and feel and smell and touch the beauty that exists.  It is also important to remember how fleeting that can be unless there is a shared recognition that short-term gain for some cannot be a substitute for longer-term deprivation, exploitation, and outright elimination of another.

Take care.

Michael and Climate Change

October 10, 2018

BW photograph of the woods off to the side of Chimney Rock on a foggy morning.

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

Hurricane Michael arrived today with all the destructive capabilities as was forecast.  The storm will be moving through Georgia and the Carolinas and then out to the Atlantic.

NPR’s 1A program also had this discussion about climate change-please give it a listen.  It is especially important to pay attention to the information from the recent IPCC report regarding the time frames with which we need to be working and the steps to be taken to mitigate/adapt to climate change.  Time is short, but as the report and 1A discussion indicate, the capability is there-multiple concrete strategies are presented.  It will, however, take individual, industrial, and political will.

Michael, and the other major storms, droughts, and fires of the past few years are reminders of what is at stake.

The photograph is a moment of calm.

Take care.