By the Water’s Edge

The two most favored environments for most people are mountains and water. It must be all those positive ions in the air.

Waterscapes, whether natural or altered by humans, are some of my favorite environmental scenes. The two most favored environments for most people are mountains and water. It must be all those positive ions in the air. I recently photographed the first six scenes, shown on my online gallery.


Fall is a time of decomposition leading to rebirth in the spring.

Fall is a time of decomposition leading to rebirth in the spring. Seeing it this way shows how death is necessary for life. Modern (though not all) humans try to escape death by not thinking about it, and when it does happen we do our best to protect the body of the deceased from decomposition, though this is beginning to change.

Walking through one of our local preserves enabled me to photograph some fall events. My photos are biased, I selected the more aesthetic subjects. To see a few more, go to my on-line gallery.

‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’

So said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the COP27 delegates on 7 November, reported by Forbes.

Originally published 11/7/2022

Update: I added text and the graphic, Impact of Climate Change On Human Health, to show the factors that will contribute to human population decline. These do not include decisions by young people to have fewer if any children.

Our understanding of the drivers of climate change is well-understood, but most people in developed counties nor their leaders want to give up their lifestyle of convenience, comfort, and profit. Yet, not addressing climate change will likely kill most of humanity during the next hundred years. The six charts, below, show how human population growth and industrialization created greenhouse gases that warm the planet, likely resulting in a 3oF temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2100 if left unchecked.

According to scientists, we have about seven years left to drastically curb our greenhouse gas output to avoid an irreversible tipping point. Methane is 80 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide over twenty years and 20 times more heat-trapping over a hundred years. This is because newly introduced methane molecules into the atmosphere are broken down by sunlight over 10 years, whereas carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries unless recaptured by plants.

Climate change will reduce the human population due to factors shown in the following chart. Alternatively, we can minimize our decline with aggressive climate change initiatives. There is a current cholera pandemic that is worsened by flooding, the result of climate change.

One way or another human population must decline, and people will have to go back to living much as we did in the nineteenth century (what I call micro-industrialization), though with modern versions of electric trains and trolleys. Renewable energy cannot fully replace fossil fuel energy in the foreseeable future so we will just not have a lot of stuff, and most people will again be farmers.

What might micro-industrialization look like? It is hard to say since how we will utilize diminished energy resources is as much a political question as it is an engineering one. A New York Times article gives us a glimpse of how micro-industrialization might start.

The First Coke Fired Blast Furnace

My late wife and I traveled to the UK in the mid-nineties to meet friends. Among the many things we saw was the original coke fired blast furnace from the late eighteenth century at the Museum of Iron that was used to refine pig iron at a much lower cost than using charcoal. This helped pave the way for England’s rapid industrial expansion during the nineteenth century, and further eroded England’s landed aristocracy by the capitalists. As more farmers migrated to the cities for work the face of poverty changed with a host of new social problems including pollution, greater disease due to crowding, and unemployment.

Putting aside the long-running debates about whether communism, democratic socialism, or capitalism is the best form of government for industrialized societies, this blast furnace aided the production of evermore goods and had a positive impact on much of England’s, and later other, populations (e.g., more food, better housing, and eventually, better public health). This led to greater inequality with a rising middle-class and greater profits for industrialists. Nevertheless, no one from the working-class to the one percent wants to return to the pre-industrial era. Industrialization is seductive.

Human population began a more rapid expansion as a result of greater access to energy and resources, then exploding in the twentieth century. You can see this expansion of population and production in the two charts, below. Unfortunately, near vertical curves are not sustainable.

You know the rest, we have destroyed much of our environment and warmed the air and waters such that we are now in the sixth extinction, which will more adversely affect us as the twenty-first century unfolds. We are already seeing the following consequences of industrialization and climate change.

Yes, we should continue our pursuit of renewable energy, but we must cut back production and come to terms with a much lower standard of living–micro-industrialization. If we do not, nature will do it for us. It is still possible but it is not looking good.

Your comments.

The Athabasca Glacier

Glaciers feed rivers and rivers provide communities with water. As these glaciers disappear, so will the communities that depend on them.

A friend of mine recently went on a rail trip into the Canadian Rockies where he took a great shot along the Athabasca River near the glacier of the same name. As you can see, there is lots of snow and ice on the peaks. Or is there?

Athabasca River, courtesy: Robert DePuyt

We all now know that glaciers around the world are melting, so I decided to see if there is a good historical and recent photo of this glacier from the same position. In fact there is. Again, from the satellite photo on the left it looks like there is lots of ice. But seen from ground-level in the comparisons on the right it is clear that the glacier has drastically receded (and certainly more so during the eleven years since). Glaciers feed rivers and rivers provide communities with water. As these glaciers disappear, so will the communities that depend on them.

I’m just beginning to plan a trip to Ilulissat, Greenland next spring to photograph calving glaciers. I would love to hear from anyone who has photographed glaciers to tell me about their experience.

Humans: A Paper Thin memory?

Snowy Owl–IUCN Redlist: Vulnerable

Here is a six minute PBS clip* highlighting how we are destroying the biosphere on which most current life depends. All this only since about 1850, with most changes within the past thirty years. Time is running out.

* PBS Passport may be required to open this clip.

Raptor Hunt (Episode 2)

I was shooting in high speed continuous mode using center screen focus. The camera focused in most shots on the background instead of the bird, so only the last two images, above, were marginally fit for presentation.

Adult Bald Eagle

Unfortunately, the images in this post are of poor quality because the birds are too far away, so they will not appear at my on-line gallery. Instead, I show them here because they tell a story about two juvenile Bald Eagles, one that successfully caught a fish and the other that failed. In fact, the successful bird has likely failed several times also. With time, they will rarely miss a catch.

I was shooting in high speed continuous mode using center screen focus. The camera focused most shots on the background instead of the bird, so only the last two images, above, were marginally fit for presentation. The bird’s actual strike was totally blurred. My alternative would be to use single-point focusing but that would mean getting that one point right on the bird, a tough challenge.

I also re-shot the nesting pair of Osprey’s that you can see in the first eleven photos at my on-line gallery. I could not yet see any of the chicks. Stay tuned.

If you have any interesting shots of raptors I would love to see them.

Next Generation Prep

Ospreys are “snow birds,” they do not stick around for the cold weather.

IUCN designation: LC The Osprey is a global bird whose populations are increasing.

I recently visited one of our many preserves and ran into these two birds. They were in the process of lining their nest for the upcoming parenting season. Ospreys are “snow birds,” they do not stick around for the cold weather. They generally return to the same nest each year. I’ll return to photograph over the coming weeks once the eggs have hatched. In the meantime, you can find a four-shot sequence here.

Earth Day 2022

April 22, 2022 update: Hello, is anybody listening? A just released IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says we are going in the wrong direction on climate change, but there is still a narrow window left to avoid a complete catastrophe to our biosphere, and that includes us.

According to an ongoing temperature analysis led by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), “the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1° Celsius (1.9° Fahrenheit) since 1880. The majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade. . . . . The data reflect how much warmer or cooler each region was compared to a base period of 1951-1980. (The global mean surface air temperature for that period was 14°C (57°F), with an uncertainty of several tenths of a degree.)”

There was time when we believed that we were the center of the universe and that we should have dominion over the Earth. But then Copernicus came along who asserted that the Sun is indeed the center of our solar system, the Moon being the only body that revolved around the Earth. I’m sure you know that this resulted in a bit of an uproar. As for the dominion idea, our use of resources, over-hunting, and factory farming of animals have contributed to climate change and the current sixth extinction. Watch Marvin Gaye’s video, Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology), released in 1971.

The following two photos show a contrast between Greenland’s Tunu Glacier in 1933 and 2013. This melt-back is characteristic of ice all around the world, though melt-back varies widely, depending on location.

Source: The Greenland Ice Sheet – 80 years of climate change seen from the air. / Bjørk, Anders Anker; Kjær, Kurt H.; Larsen, Nicolaj Krog; Kjeldsen, Kristian Kjellerup; Khan, Shfaqat Abbas; Funder, Svend Visby; Korsgaard, Niels Jákup. 2014. Abstract from 44th International Arctic Workshop, Boulder, Colorado, United States.

It wasn’t so long ago that Carl Sagan and climate scientists started sounding the alarm that we were going down a dangerous path. Subsequent climate data has revealed that those early projections vastly underestimated what was happening, since we now know that climate change is not a linear but an exponential process. That is, it happens faster and faster over time.

Via Voyager 1

The now famous photograph of Earth as a pale blue dot was taken on February 14, 1990 by the deep space probe, Voyager 1, from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). The more recent

Via Cassini

photograph was taken by the deep space probe, Cassini. Though more striking with Saturn in the foreground, it also shows how Earth is but a spec in the cosmos. As Sagan said in his book: Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. (Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot, 1994)

People often say we have to save the Earth. Not so! The Earth will go on just fine without us. The issue is preserving the current biosphere that supports us and the other higher vertebrates. There will always be life on the planet so long as there’s liquid water. As I present every year, here is my fictionalized account of our worst scenario. Let’s do better!

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