Archive for 2010 June

Vanishing weather, vanishing species

Fascinating quote from modern-day wit Douglas Coupland (inventor of the phrase "McJob"):

"The modern world is devoted to vanishing species, vanishing weather and
vanishing capacity for wonder."

From his latest novel, The Gum Thief.

I think this perception is true. But how does one make inquiry into such a trade?

Have to admire the creator of the Cloud Appreciation Society, who did find a way to monetize wonder.

Speaking of which, here's my latest fav pic from what John Muir called "Cloudland":


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The Southern Lights…

…from astronaut Bruce Wheeler's perspective

The southern lights
Does it matter that this astonishing image comes via Twitter' — or Twitpik?  

Not to me. Like it like that. For more on the mission, here's a report from Discover.

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How to muck up a great view

A million examples could be cited, no doubt, but here's one in my little town of Upper Ojai.   

Bring in a ginormous bulldozer. Scrape flat a pad. Add one ginormous RV. 

Drive away. 


From Drop Box

But, to be fair, the same owners installed a lovely bench, for sunset viewings…

From 6-21-2010

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Just another sunset…

…along CA's Highway 1:


I've left some posts for you to chew on while I'm gone, but I'm trusting the world to keep turning when I'm off in the Ventana Wilderness…'til Tuesday.  

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California spurred to change by Gulf oil spill; Californians, not so much

Fascinating duo of stories in today's papers. In the Los Angeles Times, news that the Governor and the California Legislature are moving into high gear on an ambitious renewable energy standard, supported (yes!) by major utilities. In the words of our Gov:

"One needs only to look to the Gulf of Mexico and the tragedy and what
happens when you just rely on oil," Schwarzenegger said at an
alternative fuel summit last week. "It is shameful how desperate and how
dependent we have become on fossil fuels."

In the Ventura County Star, a front-page story reveals that the huge disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has spurred approximately zero change in fuel consumption among Californians:

“People here seem to be pretty apathetic,” said Don Rodriguez, chairman
of the Environmental Science and Resource Management program at CSU
Channel Islands. “I think these kinds of catastrophes often times are
very short lived in people’s minds.”

Maybe California government deserves a little credit on this issue for far-sightedness?

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How to send a camera soaring

Colin Rich demonstrates, right here in Ventura County. 

Somehow he makes sending single-handedly a camera halfway to space look absurdly easy, all the while revealing the astonishing beauty of this little corner of the universe. Wow. 

Pacific Star II from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

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Global warming unpredictability: two stories

Global warming is not for the simple-minded, two stories from the same day last week remind us.

As the invaluable Andrew Revkin notes on Dot Earth on 6/15, this past May was the warmest on record. On the same day, from a polar science conference in Oslo, researcher James Overland of NOAA presents evidence to show that the loss of Arctic sea ice will mean more cold, snowy winters in northern regions.

"The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010
Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected
to unique physical processes in the Arctic," said James
Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
in the United States.

"In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather
than the exception" in these regions, Overland told IPS.

Scientists have been surprised by the rapid warming of the
Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased two to
three times faster than the global average. In one part of
the Arctic, over the Barents and Karas Seas north of
Scandinavia, average annual temperatures are now 10 degrees
C higher than they were in 1990.

Overland explains the warming of the Arctic as the result of
a combination of climate change, natural variability, loss
of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing
wind patterns, which has disrupted the stability of the
Arctic climate system.

For the curious about this aspect of "global weirding," here's a link to a series of papers presented at the Polar Year conference in Oslo on the subject of Polar Science — Global Impact.

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Men: What are they good for?

Not much, says the Atlantic this month. I exaggerate, for the purposes of encouraging amusing and brittle party chatter, but only a little.

To wit, on the necessity of fathers:

The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing
objectively essential about his contribution. The good news is, we’ve
gotten used to him.

Further, men aren't much good in the 21st century economy:

Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance
of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the
nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of
masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly
absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate
today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will
receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job
categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S.,
all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is
in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women
leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other
women to fill.

Best of all, the hilarious (if a little frightening) Sandra Tsing Loh looks at a slew of books and movies on women and real estate, brilliantly titled Our Houses, Our Selves, and concludes:

So what if, in comparison with Jane Austen’s time, when the heroine’s
journey was necessarily Girl Meets Boy, Girl Marries Boy, Girl Gets
Pemberley, 200 years later our plots are Woman Buys Pemberley, Pemberley
Needs Remodeling, Woman Hires Handsome, Soulful, Single Architect to
Find Perfect Farmhouse Sink but After Whirlwind Affair Boots Him Out
Anyway Because She Hates His Choice of Carpeting? We still want the
adrenaline rush; we still yearn to endlessly transform ourselves; we
still want to dream and feel and love.

It's just that men no longer seem very necessary.

Anyhow — Happy Father's Day!

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President Obama: Gulf “resilient”: Julia Whitty: “Doomed ecosystem”

Last week the most interesting news on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico came via veteran environmental reporter Julia Whitty, who was interviewed at length on NPR show Here and Now.

In contrast to President Obama, who said on the Today show that there was a "resiliency" in the Gulf, and promised that "essentially we can preserve those estuaries and marshes so that three years from now they will come back," Whitty said from the site that she saw what looked "a doomed ecosystem." 

It's pretty bleak, but she asks a couple of excellent questions, such as:

"Why should we compound the problem of oil with some other toxin [disperant]?"

[and, one idea from the fact that the marshes at the mouth of the river are not fully oiled]

"If they really want to talk about rebuilding the sand [barriers] at the mouth of the Mississippi River, than they should free up the mouth of the river. Right now it's essentially a canal that's coming out. Break down the walls of that canal and let the Mississippi, which is the thing that built that delta, take the silt from all the upper 48 states and carry it back out into the Gulf. That flushing action would be more useful to rebuilding a disappearing delta than anything else." 

Interesting idea.


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Best lit journal for backpacking

Without a doubt, Threepenny. Not because they're especially interested in the mountains or the environment (they're not). Because the richness and spontaneity of the writing flows well out of doors, and because the physical form they have chosen — thick paper, broad sheets, light weight — packs well, and works well as tinder, or even insulation in a pinch.

And because they write so memorably. My favorite piece as of late is about Van Gogh's great painting Shoes, which blends art and love and a faith in basic humanity, the earthy reality of our lives.


And because they welcome new writers, such as Tim Carr, who says of this painting:

What did this man—who worked as a bookstore clerk, an art dealer, a
teacher, who felt his destiny was to be a clergyman like his father,
before finding his mission in painting —want to teach us by digging into
the working life? When I look at Shoes it resonates through my
body as if I’m stomping a shovel into a buried rock. And when I look I
feel, feel that I’m not looking at it right, not looking at it fully. A
writer I like very much writes that van Gogh painted “analogous to the
activity,” that the act of making, the production of reality, is
captured in each of van Gogh’s strokes. I see this but cannot grasp it
before it falls away. And I go after it again.

And speaking of the backcountry…off into the local mtns. See you Sunday.

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