Columbine

April 19, 2019

BW photograph of three United States flags-two are laying in a flower bed, one is falling into a bush.

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

Earlier this month, I posted a blog about the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.  It is also important to remember that April 20, 2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.  NPR’s 1A aired this collaboration, and it is worth a listen-both in terms of it serving as a reflection on that day as well as an update as to what has, and has not, changed in American culture with regard to gun violence since.  (Dave Cullen’s Columbine is also highly recommended.)

One needs only to look at what New Zealand did in the aftermath of its recent mass shooting-and the time frame under which this took place.  Of course, such a response is exactly for what the gun lobby in the U.S. is afraid and is central to its argument against regulation.

Twenty years…and counting.

Take care.

Photographer’s Note:  The photo above was made in California, not Colorado.

 

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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.

BW photograph of a tree overlooking a cemetery.

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

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  The above photograph is not from Rwanda, as I have not been there.  It is, however, a marker of the 800,000-1,000,000 people killed there during those 100 days.

Please do listen to this report regarding the manner by which Rwanda has coped with this truly human tragedy.  I would also highly recommend reading Mr. Gourevich’s book and the articles he has written in the intervening years.  The title of the linked book is especially poignant.  There are, of course, many other available resources.

Given the rise in hate speech and nationalistic politics that have gripped much of the world, which are based in the demonization of “the other”, there is much to be learned from the Rwanda experience before, during, and after the genocide.  However, we truly seem to be incapable of learning those lessons.  This is, I think, reflected by the fact that when teaching the Rwandan genocide, by far the majority of students had no real knowledge of what happened there in 1994.  It is extremely difficult to extract any learning points from that which you do not know happened.

The United States refused to directly intervene and obfuscated the U.N. efforts there despite having finally ratified the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. For more about that history, it is useful to read this.

Know. Remember. Learn.

Take care.

Peace

April 1, 2019

BW photograph of a lost glove atop a post posed in a peace sign.

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

In a perfect example of symbolic interactionism theory, the glove pictured above can have multiple meanings.  For example, this could signify the number “two”.  It may also mean “V” for “Victory”-there are photographs of Sir Winston Churchill walking among the bombed-out ruins of London during the Blitz with his fingers configured in such a manner.  This was meant to instill hope and confidence in the British cause during a most desperate time early in WWII.

This same gesture came to be known as the “Peace” symbol during the 1960s, and was used extensively by protesters while the war in Vietnam raged.  (As an important aside, Congress is the branch of government to officially issue declarations of war.  The post-WWII conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged have not been officially declared wars.  The Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) is a different entity.  “War” itself is another example of symbolic interactionism-that term also has different interpretations.)  President Nixon also quite often flashed the sign when boarding Air Force One or Marine One-his meaning was most likely closer to Prime Minister Churchill’s rather than that of the counter-culture movement.

As with any gesture, and consistent with the aforementioned theory, the meaning is based on the context in which it is being used.  One’s culture also plays a significant role in this as well.  Miscommunication can occur, for example, if one meant “peace” and another interpreted it as “two”.  One could only guess at the meaning intended by the person or persons who affixed this glove to the post and posed the fingers in this manner.  They were not around to ask.

I am choosing to ascribe the meaning of peace.  I am doing so because upon seeing the glove I remembered the January/February 2019 issue of Smithsonian magazine, which was entitled “America At War”.  The sub-title was “After 17 years, our longest armed conflict overseas now spans 80 countries”.  The statistics presented therein with regard to the total amount of time since America’s founding that we have been fighting somewhere and the breath of countries in which the U.S. is currently engaged in military action or has a military presence around the world are staggering.

Which may also be why whomever posed the glove may have meant “Victory”.

As I think about my interpretation, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is playing in the back of my mind.  This goes for all conflicts, not just those involving the U.S.   It is interesting to think that if Mr. Lennon’s vision were enacted, would there be a need for this type of “Victory” interpretation?  (This is a continuation of the “What if…” questions posed in the previous post.)

Armed conflict is another area in which variations of the “What if…” question could apply.  Indeed, Mr. Lennon’s song is a most elegant, lyrical, version of that game.  I am, however, not that naive, nor am I that hopeful, despite what Steven Pinker says.

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.

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.