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.

 

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Deflated

October 5, 2019

BW photograph of a broken tree overlapping a large rock.

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

There is something quite forlorn about this tree’s appearance.  It is as if it had become fatigued, deflated really, and, one would imagine, with a deep sigh simply laid down over the top of a large rock.  It had had enough.

As time passes, the trunk and limbs reach a point of nakedness as their bark dries out and falls away.

In many, many, years it will no longer be visible.

By that time, who would remember?

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.

Fair

September 22, 2019

BW photograph of a food stand at a fair as seen through a chain link fence.

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

“Fair” is one of those words with multiple meanings.  One of those has to do with large gatherings of people engaging in a celebratory event-as in a “state fair”.  Another is about equal treatment or acting without bias-to treat “fairly” or to “be fair”.  The photograph above clearly represents the former.

However, it also relates to the latter.  When I used the same photograph in a previous post, the content was about the connection between unhealthy diets and their consequences with regard to the healthcare system.  Indeed, it would be hard to argue that the food advertised at this stand was healthy.  That it would be enjoyable to those who consume those items goes without saying.  That issues connected to that enjoyment, when engaged in as a lifestyle choice, is one of the points in the earlier post.

Truth in disclosure:  I have been a vegetarian for almost three decades now.  In reality, I am practically vegan.  Initially, it was concern over the conditions under which cows, pigs, and chickens are raised by industrial farming-this includes their housing as well as the amount of antibiotics and growth hormones used-that facilitated this decision.  It has since become clear that the consumption of a meat-based diet, particularly beef, is one of the major drivers of climate change.  Were I not already there, the production of methane would have been the catalyst for the change in my diet.

Therefore, I am not unbiased in what I write or link to with regard to climate change and its related subjects.  I do use credible sources for the information presented herein.  The interconnectedness of diet, healthcare, and climate change has been established.  The synergistic risks, both for individuals and the planet, are real.

It is fair that this point-of-view be explicit.

Take care.

 

Protests

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…

 

 

 

Diet

September 21, 2019

BW photograph of a food stand at a fair as seen through a chain link fence.

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

If you have been following the Democratic presidential candidate debates, then you know that health care is one of the major issues being addressed by those running.  Some want the Affordable Care Act (or ACA-often referred to as “Obamacare”) to be tweaked, others want what is referred to as “Medicare for All”.  There are some positions that are a hybrid of those two.  Republicans, for the most part, have been trying to eliminate the ACA since its inception, even though it was modeled on a plan implemented by Mitt Romney.

Yes, the administration and delivery of health care can do with a re-make.  There are plenty of issues with affordability, accessibility, and accountability-the very issues for which the ACA was devised.  I, for one, am pretty satisfied with the plan provided by my employer-it is purchased with payroll deductions and various co-pays.  When I have needed care, it has been provided.  When I have needed to contact them, I have found customer service to be responsive and thorough.

This coin, however, must be flipped over.  By that I mean, one must also look to the precursors of poor health and thus the need for healthcare coverage-one of which is the preponderance of unhealthy diets in the U.S.  (Stress would be another.  One overlap being that when one is stressed, “stress eating” can be one coping mechanism.  Such eating provides short-term relief in exchange for what may well be long-term health consequences.)  When considering high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity, just to name many of the more significant and common health problems, diet often plays a part in their creation, progression, and treatment.  Some of the presidential candidates have discussed this side of the problem.

The connection between diet and health can readily be seen when examining the proliferation of food deserts-PBS presented this report, which draws attention to the impact on health that occurs in the absence of a nutritious diet. While the report is a bit dated, the fundamental point is not.  Food insecurity is yet another side of the issue.  Senator Warren, true to form, has proposed a plan to address this…for college students.  At the other end of the political spectrum, the current administration has proposed cutting SNAP benefits.

As an important aside, it is worth looking at the income amount that factors into the eligibility for public assistance-please take a look at this link.  These are the numbers that would allow for one person, or a family constellation, to be considered living in poverty and thus eligible for SNAP and other federal programs.  For example, if you were a single person earning $15,000 per year, you would be ineligible for such assistance.  You would be making too much money.  Given the cost of housing, energy, and transportation, such a figure allows little room for food, let alone a healthy diet-hence the issue of food insecurity.  When you factor in the socioeconomic determinants that create food deserts, then eating well becomes quite impossible.  Diets full of Salt Sugar Fat, ingredients in heavily processed foods and the title of Michael Moss’ 2013 book on the subject, take consumers down the path of what can be catastrophic health consequences.

Of course, one does not need to be living in a food desert or concerned with food insecurity to eat in an unhealthy manner.  All that is required to truly understand that is to take a walk through a Giant or Mars or Safeway or other local grocery store.  Spend time going up and down the inner aisles, that is, those furthest from the produce sections, and randomly pull canned and boxed and bagged items from the shelves and read the ingredients.  Check the refrigerated/freezer sections and notice the amount of sodium and other chemicals in processed meats.  Pull a few cups of yogurt and check the amount of added sugar.  Be sure to also check the “serving size”.  For example, bottled juices often contain up to two servings-therefore, if the entire bottle is consumed, the contents and calories must be multiplied by the servings per container.  Interestingly, many bagged products, potato chips for example, are labeled with the total calories if the entire bag is eaten.  This is important information.

Healthcare delivery in the U.S. must be discussed as there are many, many issues with the current system.  However, placing an emphasis on preventative care, diet, in this case, would seem to be at least as important.

Take care.

Dorian

September 2, 2019

BW photograph of water rushing between rocks.

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

Hurricane Dorian blasted parts of the Bahamas yesterday-please pay close attention to the wind speeds generated by the storm as reported here.

BW photograph of debris collected against a tree after a flood.

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

At the time, Dorian was classified as a Category 5 hurricane, which is currently the highest level of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  As with many of the hurricanes of the 2018 season, the amount of rainfall being generated-as much as 30 inches in some areas in the Bahamas-is also a major concern.

BW photograph of a branch caught in overhead powerlines.

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

Last year, the idea of creating a new level, Category 6, was discussed due to the increased intensity of the hurricanes in this era of climate change and the warming of the oceans. That designation has not as yet been made official.

BW photograph of a branch caught in overhead powerlines-closer view.

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

Dorian’s impact of the U.S. remains to be seen and experienced, although it appears that she may scour the coast from Florida to the Carolinas in the coming days.  Evacuations have already been ordered, and it appears prudent to take heed of them as applicable.

Given that Dorian has had wind gusts of up to 220 mph and rainfall totals that could reach 30 inches, storms such as this will have far reaching consequences.  Building codes will need to be updated, insurance rates will most likely increase, some geographic locations will no longer be sustainable for human habitation.

Ironically, this storm arrives at a time when the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has proposed rollbacks to the regulations of methane emissions.  Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than is CO2-this is one of the main issues here.  As such, it also another example of the short-term economic thinking in support of the fossil fuel industry, which is the modus operandi of the current administration.  That these rollbacks are being proposed by the same agency that brought us the Clean Air Act demonstrates just how far afield that agency has gone under this administration.  Please be sure to read through the info from that link as it details the manner by which “global warming emissions” have been determined to be included in this legislation.  That not all of the multi-national energy companies support this rollback is at least, at least, some good news in this story.

However, tell that to those in the Bahamas or the areas that will be hit in the coming week.

Should one be in the path of this, or any major weather event, the government does have a web site for what to include in a go-bag, which is a key part of emergency preparation.

Take care.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTE:  The photos included in this post have no relation to Hurricane Dorian-the first is one of the normal level of water flow at Morgan Run.  The second is a debris pile from an earlier flood at Morgan Run.  The last two are the result of trees that were cleared for a new building project.  They all, though, do serve as metaphors of what powerful storms can leave behind.