November 17, 2019

BW photograph of a tire laying in a stream.

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

This report aired on NPR as I was driving to work the other morning.  This is from a bit earlier in the month.  The connection?  Toxins being released into the environment, which, in turn, pose present dangers to biological organisms.   The first report states that funds are not available to adequately police wild areas, therefore toxic chemicals used in the illegal drug trade make their way into the food chain.   In the second, it is the proposed relaxation of environmental protection standards governing disposal of waste from coal-fired power plants that is the issue.  The risk is that of toxins contaminating water sources.

BW photograph of a can in a plastic bag laying next to a leaf.

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

I sometimes reach the point where stories about the goal of maximizing profits, whether within or without legal and/or regulatory bounds, resulting in environmental damage become more than I want to hear, and I feel the urge to turn off the radio.  That, then, begs the question:  If one does not listen to such reports, then how does one know the breadth and depth of an issue?  If one does not keep up-to-date on regulatory roll-backs or the illegal use of toxins, how does one know the extent of the damage?  What would happen if folks stopped paying attention to the environment?  If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?  Of course it does.  As long as there is violation of regulatory standards, which includes the failure to adequately fund such efforts or the blatant rolling back/reversal of said standards, the damage continues, thereby creating the persistent need to pay attention.  The frustration and dismay that periodically builds is simply the evidence that more work needs to be done.  That work begins with a critical awareness of the issues.

Keep paying attention.

Take care.

The War of the Worlds

October 17, 2019

BW photograph of a water tower-long, wide composition.

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

These are images from Frederick, Maryland.  Each time I go there and look toward this water tower, I think of H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds.  The cover image in that link should provide the rationale for this association.

BW photograph of a water tower with the tower left of center overlooking some houses.

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

This work was published in book form in 1898 and later adapted as a live radio broadcast by Orson Wells.  That broadcast, which coincided with Halloween, was reported to have been thought by some as a narrative of a real invasion-the story of this broadcast is quite a tale.  There have been a few movie adaptations over the years.

Spoiler alert: if you have not read the book nor heard/viewed any of the adaptations, please stop here.

BW photograph of a water tower right of center overlooking some houses.

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

If you are familiar with the end of the story, then you know that the martians are ultimately defeated by the air on earth.  While our technology and war machines were no match for their technology and tripods, the entities themselves simply could not safely breathe our air.  They perished.

Importantly, in reality, such is the case for many humans here in the 21st century.  This is a link regarding the most air polluted cities in the U.S.  This one broadens the scope to the planet.  Statistics regarding the number of premature deaths due to air pollution are also included in the latter link.  (As an important aside, BBC’s Witness History program aired an episode of how Mexico City addressed its car pollution problem.)

BW photograph of a set of old wooden stairs leading to a boarded-over entrance.

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

Given the toxicity of the air, human-generated pollution presents a clear and present danger to the well-being of peoples around the world, especially as efforts are made to roll-back previous legislation regarding pollutants.

BW photograph of fallen leaves laying in a puddle in a gutter.

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

Indeed, uninhabitable conditions, be they environmental (polluted air and water, drought, desertification, rising seas, etc.), economic (lack of employment, exploitation), or social (war, persecution, genocide, other forms of violence) are some of the main drivers of human migration.  As the planet continues to warm and such conditions intensify, so will the conflicts over the remaining habitable areas.  This is one reason for the renewed interest in extra-planetary travel.

It would seem reasonable that there is some form of intelligent life out there in the ‘verse.  One could say that it is a bit egocentric/ethnocentric to think we are the only intelligent life in existence.  (One could also say that given the current state of affairs in so many places, our intelligence could be questioned…)  Therefore, SETI had a history and there is a rationale for the current iteration.  Time will tell.  My fantasy, though, is that any other extraterrestrial life capable of being consciously aware of us would also be intelligent enough to avoid our attempts to make contact.  The manner by which we treat each other and our planet is enough to give intelligent beings pause.

Take care.


The Blob

September 29, 2019

BW photograph of dappled sunlight on a brick wall.

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

No, this does not refer to the classic 1950s sci-fi movie nor the more recent John Carpenter re-make. Instead, this is a reference to a mass of hot water that has again formed in the Pacific Ocean.  As per that linked report, should the prevailing weather conditions continue, this much warmer water has the potential for impacts up-and-down the aquatic food chain as various species are unable to survive the temperature increase.  There is also a risk for the return of toxic algae blooms.  Both of these create issues for the fishing industry.

BW photograph of dead autumn leaves laying atop a rock.

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

NPR also did this story regarding the recent U.N. report, which contains information about these hotter pockets of water as well as a broader range of water-related problems, which include the melting of glaciers and ice sheets-here is the U.N. report.  This report details the degree of dependence and risk faced by the populations living in various geographic locations around the world as the planet warms.  To underline this point, please give this report about the Mont Blanc glacier.

It is so easy to get lost in the latest news of the day, especially given the political systems in place worldwide, and the subsequent issues they create.  This roller-coaster ride can be quite fatiguing when followed closely.  Meanwhile, the inexorable degradation of the planet continues.  As the Amazon rain forest burns, more CO2 is released, and those trees are no longer available for CO2 absorption.  As permafrost melts, greenhouse gases are released.   As environmental protections are eliminated, more damage is done.  The seas are rising.  They are also getting hotter.

It is evermore important for individuals to make concerted efforts to reduce carbon footprints.  At the same time, it is evermore necessary for pressures to be brought to bear on politicians for the larger systemic changes.

All of this flies in the face of nationalism.  In a speech to the U.N., President Trump openly advocated a rejection of globalism.  He has pulled the U.S. from the Paris Accords (not to mention other global agreements). Climate change is the prototypical problem requiring global cooperation and action as rising seas do not respect borders.  Droughts do not respect borders.  Larger and more powerful hurricanes and typhoons do not respect borders.

If you have not already heard Greta Thunberg’s speech to the U.N., it is worth a listen.

Take care.


September 21, 2019

BW photograph of the sun rising behind some wheat stalks.

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

Yesterday was a day of protests initiated by the Fridays for Future group-The Kojo Nnamdi Show broadcast this discussion, and it is worth a listen to hear the student perspectives.  (Mr. Nnamdi followed that with this one the next day.)  Fridays for Future (and here) is one of several student-led activist groups engaged in changing current policy with regard to climate-related issues.

I think a commentator on the BBC best summarized this during a news broadcast when he stated that the youth behind these protests for action on climate change are the “voters of tomorrow” and the “employees of tomorrow”-therefore, the politicians and employers of today would do well to pay attention to what they have to say about the environmental crisis in which we are.  Unfortunately, I did not catch his name for attribution.  This has also been a point made by others.

Whomever said, or actively says, this, is spot on.  This generation is inheriting a world in flux:  the September 2019 issue of the National Geographic had as its heading “The Arctic is Heating Up”.  The October 2019 issue features a photograph of Sudan, “the last male northern white rhinoceros”, on its cover.  The. Last. Male.  As National Geographic also states “Sudan died in 2018”.  Climate change and species extinction-humans are a common denominator.

Such stories bring about a range of emotional responses that span the gamut from anger to depression.  It is helpful to channel that energy toward wrangling the political will necessary to reverse the degradation of the planet and its inhabitants.

These students get that.

Good for them.

Join them in their call to action, as we are all stakeholders in the planet.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The United Nations is hosting the Climate Action Summit tomorrow-this link is from the World Health Organization, which addresses health concerns related to climate change.  There are several links for more information about those effects at the site.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Imelda pounded parts of Texas with inundating catastrophic rains, and the current administration has revoked California’s auto emissions standards…





August 17, 2019

BW photograph of a section of running water showing the turbulence.

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

One media resource that I find to be a useful compilation/analysis of the week’s events is the NPR 1A “Friday News Roundup”, which devotes one hour to U.S. issues and one to the global scene.  The following links are for the week of August 12, 2019:  Domestic and International.

Condensing the amount of current turmoil gives one pause.  The division and hostility between peoples and between humans and the environment paints a bleak picture of the state of humanity.  One of the themes that runs through this week’s stories is the characterization of what it means to be an “American” and how we project that meaning to the rest of the world.  This is encapsulated in the statements made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Please be sure to read through that entire link or listen to the report.  At one point, acting director Cuccinelli states: “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.” It is important to note the current administration’s effort to eliminate birthright citizenship-a position acting director Cuccinelli has supported.

America was, literally and figuratively, built on immigration.  We also have a long history of racism.  Nationalism is also not a new concept.  However, unless one has a 100% indigenous ancestry, then at some point those born elsewhere factor into one’s family history.  It is also vitally important to keep in mind how the U.S. government ended up treating indigenous peoples.

BW photograph a single leaf with holes laying atop a large boulder.

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

This was also a week that brought further threats to those species already existing on the margins in the form of changes to the Endangered Species Act.  This link highlights the significance of the language being used and the impact of that language with regard to the protections offered (or not).  Despite progress in genetic engineering, extinction still means forever.

BW photograph of a log laying in front of a large rock.

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

Focusing on those two issues here is not to be seen as a dismissal of the other issues discussed in this week’s “Friday News Roundup”.  There are certainly other issues of concern not addressed in today’s program.  They do, though, place a square focus on how we envision America.  More importantly, they highlight the operationalization of what it means to be an American.  The 2020 election will help decide that.  However, 2020 is still quite a ways off and much can happen between now and then.  Indeed, listen to those 1A discussions and clarify your positions with regard to the topics.  Do the requisite research so as to become more familiar with the complexities of the issues.  One real problem is engaging short-term thinking and egocentrism for the decision making process.

Once something is gone, it is gone.

A confession:  Due to my age and life experiences, I can go down the rabbit hole when thinking about issues that are important to me.  I also only write about issues that are important to me. I certainly know that some do prefer to not be inundated by such content-I, too, need to turn it off now and then.  It is also clear that not everyone will agree with the points of view expressed here.  What I do hope, though, is that folks will take notice and think about the content.  One can only decide how one feels if they are aware of the issues.  Once those thoughts and feelings become clear, then courses of action can be developed.

For me, that sums up the evolution of this blog.  I knew from the start that I did not want this to be another gear-driven blog:  I am not that into gear.  I also did not want it to be a cascade of “pretty” pictures-there are tons of blogs and other media for that.

To tie in the photographs, when I find myself with something to say, I go in search of an image to create that illustrates or serves as a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings in the written material.  For example, the photograph that leads off this post is one of rushing water.  I was thinking about the “Friday News Roundup” and so used a shutter speed that was fast enough to give some “edge” to the water, but slow enough to also suggest the pace of the flow.  Many times, these types of images are made with a very slow shutter speed so as to completely smooth out the water-there are many examples of that technique in other posts within this blog.  Doing that, to me, suggests a sense of serenity, that all is comfortable and well and peaceful.  That is not what I wanted to convey here as I view the current news cycle as one that is quite edgy and moves at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up.  The issues keep coming, blow past, and can leave one with a sense of accumulated fatigue.  At other times, I create an image and then need to think of written content that will compliment the visuals.

Together, it is the interaction between the written and the visual that spurs my creative process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take care.


August 6, 2019

BW photograph of the sun rising behind a split rail fence.

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

July 2019 has been determined the hottest month in recorded history.  WBUR’s Here and Now aired this discussion.

That statistic may or may not get people’s attention, but it is in keeping with a trajectory that has been arising for decades.  Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World provides an ever-important context in which to place that information:  the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Take care.


Up There

July 20, 2019

BW photograph of blurred clouds on a very windy morning.

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

Today, July 20, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon.

In 1969, my aunt and uncle managed a drive-in movie establishment.  During that summer, my grandparents and I would awaken on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings to clean up the debris left behind by the customers as it was commonplace for people to simply drop their trash on the ground and drive away-the environmental movement had yet to really take hold and recycling was unheard of.  Given the family connections, it also meant that I could go to the movies, I think, for free.  One of the other benefits was being able to sit in the projection booth and watch as those giant reels of film (remember that?) unspooled their imagery onto the screen.

(As an aside, Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Agnes destroyed that drive-in 1972.)

We were there on July 20, 1969 watching The Green Berets, a movie steeped in propaganda as the war in Vietnam was not going well, when it was announced over the speakers that Neil Armstrong had made those historic steps.  While the significance of that moment did not really register then, I remember the clapping and cheers that arose from the darkened vehicles.  It was quite a moment.

Looking up, it is still difficult to imagine what it took to make those steps happen.  For example, watch Apollo 13.  (I have not seen First Man.)  There is a scene where the flight engineers use slide rules to make their calculations.  I had a slide rule and never did learn how to use it effectively.  Today, smart phones have more capability than the computers NASA also used to make the Apollo program as successful as it was.  The average automobile has more wiring and electronics than did the lunar module.  Such capability is taken for granted and there is a quest for ever greater technological advances.

That quest, though, is part of what spurred the space program.  Most importantly, it was also a race to beat the Soviets to the moon-Sputnik was a significant event putting that race into motion.  That the U.S. and Russia continue to be adversaries demonstrates that some things do not really change.  Today, there are several countries vying for a return to the moon-some to use it as a way station on the journey to Mars.

Go outside tonight and look to the moon…imagine…

Take care.

PSYC 101 NOTE:  The ability to remember where one was and what was happening when meaningful events occurred is referred to as episodic memory-more about that here.