I'm a retired medical sociologist from the University of Rochester. My publishing experience includes a wide variety of academic articles and a book, "The Practice of Uncertainty" (1999). The mission of my blog is to provide accounts of the natural environment, including photos, in order to raise awareness of its fragility and the impact of climate change. Climate change is the greatest challenge currently faced by humanity. I occasionally write about the impact of climate change using the principles of social scientific writing. To do this I read reputable books and articles on the topic. So when I make statements about climate change you will see a link taking you to the scientific source(s) of the information I provide.
As for my independently published photobooks, each has gone through several layers of editing and peer review for both readability and accuracy.
This is not to say that everything I say is accurate. Even the New York Times makes mistakes. So, if you find something that is factually incorrect, let me know.
I hope you find reading my blog a positive experience. If you do, please encourage your family and friends to have a look.
We are truly entering Orwell’s age of doublespeak ( i.e., language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth). One such example is the Trump Administration’s deletion of the term climate change from government websites (and funding agencies are suggesting that applicants do the same in their federal grant proposals), so it is up to the rest of us to keep this term in the public’s eye. Yes, the vast majority of us believe that climate change is occurring as we witness extreme weather events and fires in the west.
The weather during my trip to the Allegheny was excellent, providing highs of only 80 degrees, fog and mist in the morning, and wonderful cumulus clouds during the afternoon.
Most of the river in the Allegheny National Forest area in Pennsylvania is part of the reservoir created by the Kinzua Dam. Both the river below the dam and the reservoir provide grand recreational areas. For instance, just below the dam there is a small boat launch where I happened upon a woman putting a kayak on the water and paddling downstream, seen in the above photograph.
Further downstream I caught the river early one morning as the fog rolled through. Using a long exposure, I captured a silky effect created as the river flowed.
The dam created a large lake, straddling New York and Pennsylvania. Here’s where you’ll find most of the powerboats. However, come winter when the reservoir freezes over, no snowmobiles or ice boats are allowed.
I also captured the lower reservoir early one morning before the fog burned off.
I spent substantial time scoping out the best shots. While returning from Jake’s Rocks I found a long view of the Kinzua Bridge. Setting up my tripod, I took the following shot.
The water and the forest provide people with escape and relaxation. We would not likely have these areas today if it were not for the federal and state governments early in the twentieth century putting lands off-limits to development and making them available to the public.
You can see the full collection of photographs from this trip at my online gallery, including film shots. If you have spent time in the Allegheny National Forest I would like to hear about your experience!
I spent a few hours hiking the North Country Trail as it passed through the Allegheny National Forest to show some of the area’s plants. During that foray, I noticed many relatively thinly forested areas where ferns
were growing, not thinking too much about them. Later, while reading one of the Forest Service brochures, there was a discussion about ferns. The ferns are the result of an over population of deer. Deer eat just about any kind of plant, including seedling trees. However, they do not like ferns. Old trees die over time and with few seedling trees to replace those, ferns begin to proliferate. Ferns then
shade the ground, thus blocking the growth of other plants, including seedling trees. To offset this negative process, the Forest Service has installed fencing in critical areas to keep deer out, as well as managing the deer population with hunting. You can see one of these thinly forested areas in my impressionist photo of the forest, above.
Although my purpose on this day was to photograph plants, I made a rare
fauna sighting–Tigger (that’s T-I-double grr; I didn’t put him there,
honest). I utilized slices of sunlight coming through the canopy, along with fill-in flash to darken backgrounds and light only the plants so they would better stand out.
You might wonder why I included a dead stump. I had discussed in an earlier post how dead trees and other plants
return carbon from the atmosphere to the earth and so are an important part of the ecological cycle. Sometimes deadwood also produces some interesting photos. Here, I liked the way the light bounced off this one.
Even though every map and brochure produced by the National Park and Forest
Services mention specific steps to protect the
environment, including “pack in and pack out”, I still found traces of humanity, as shown in the photo on the left.
My final post of the Allegheny will show a number of waterscapes.
Long before producing hydro-electric power, the Allegheny was one of our original producers of petroleum. The Bradford oil field was founded in 1875. By 1881 it was the world leader in oil supply, producing over 90% of U. S. oil (26 million barrels per year); oil production
continues to this day (750,000 barrels per year, compared with 24 billion barrels worldwide). As I hiked along the North Country National Trail, I came upon an oil well. At first, I thought it was an abandoned relic until I noticed a modern electrical panel and motor. You could smell crude oil around the area. As I continued hiking I came across yet another, also with the smell of crude.
Today, a large refinery sits on Route 6 in Warren with large tankers coming and going. Given that the river wraps around two sides of the refinery, and busy Route 6 on the third side, the only vantage point for a photograph was at the west end. Unfortunately, with employees coming and going, and the security related to refineries, I felt pretty uncomfortable taking photos (I’ve previously been approached by security people photographing other facilities). The Kinzua Dam was an exception since it accommodated visitors and photos outside its gates.
Even if we had known early on how burning fossil fuels would change the planet, given that evolution has wired us to pursue short-term benefits for survival, and our transition to an industrialized economy enabling a higher standard of living for some, I suspect that we would have continued down this road, just as we have done over the past 40 years.
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, 1980, p. 103)
I will show some photos of the flora I encountered along the North Country trail in my next post.
I traveled to the Allegheny National Forest, in northwestern Pennsylvania, in early August where I photographed over a four-day period. The weather
was kind, providing highs of 80 degrees or under and lots of cumulus clouds to add pizzaz to the daytime skies.
The Kinzua Dam and the Kinzua Bridge have remade the Allegheny region with positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, the dam provides flood control all the way to Pittsburgh along with clean and green
hydro-electric power. A secondary benefit is that the huge reservoir provides a wonderful source of recreation.
Unfortunately, the dam has come at the expense of New York’s Seneca Nation that lost much of its fertile agricultural land and displaced 600 native families. This is a major reason hostilities continue among the Seneca, the federal, and state government to this day, notably over compensation for the New York Thruway traversing the reservation, and cigarette and gambling tax payments to New York State.
So while the dam and bridge benefit far more people than they hurt, whites benefit at the expense of the original native American residents.
I will present a brief history of petroleum production in the Allegheny in my next post.