Editor's Note: We were all shocked to read the recent news that the western black rhinoceros, teetering on the edge for decades, had been officially declared extinct. At Beacon Press, we understand the urgency for ecology and conservation as part of our broader humanitarian mission. What can be learned from the tragedy of extinction? That now, more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to save those species that remain close to the brink: the Bengal tiger, the giant panda, the Sumatran elephant, or—as conservationist Nancy Merrick details below—our closest relative, the chimpanzee.
Two-year-old Sara has moxie. Dangling upside down, one hundred feet above the forest floor, she is absolutely fearless even though today is one of her first forays into this African forest.
Not every orphaned chimp discovers their tree-climbing talent so readily, we’re told. It all depends on how they were treated, how little they were when they lost their mothers, and their innate nature. But Sara’s genes seem programmed for audacity. We gaze upwards to feast on Sara’s first time launching from limb to limb as though she were spring-loaded, first time grabbing whole handfuls of fruit while dangling one-handed from a tree branch, and first time nonchalantly scaling upwards into the canopy to dazzle the other chimps.
Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg decided to combine errands this past week. Along with dropping his son off at Harvard, he decided to deliver an important message to New England—about climate change. With son Robert and daughter Isabel in tow, he made his pitch across four states. No venue was too small or too modest: a nature center here, an ice cream parlor there, small-town bookstores here and there, and places of worship of various stripes.
I heard Rob speak last Monday at a synagogue in Brookline, MA. Though only a dozen people gathered to meet him on that balmy summer evening, he delivered his message with passion and determination—qualities that run through the brief, persuasive book he has written: America's Climate Century. Every person in the room was a climate change activist in the making, in his view. This is not an issue that we can afford to be passively concerned about; it demands broad public engagement. Nothing less, he feels, will stir a polarized Congress out of its short-sighted paralysis.
As soon as John Winthrop and his gang of Puritans landed on the little temporary island known to the locals as Shawmut, they started digging and delving and filling marshes and swamps and inlets to build more land. Nothing new in all that, it seems to be a habit of Western culture; Rome was constructed around the Pontine Marshes, the Dutch put up massive dikes to keep the North Sea at bay, and Venice was built on pilings set in the marshy Venice Lagoon.
Boston, as the Shawmut came to be called, was separated from the mainland by a narrow little strip of land (now, basically, Washington Street) that flooded in spring tides, creating a tight little island. By the 1650s, more tidal streams were channeled, more marshes were filled, and more land was created over the centuries—including the massive filling of the banks of the Charles to create the famous Back Bay.
But coastlines are a fickle things, always coming and going. There was at time, not that long ago as geologic time is measured, when Boston sat under a mile of ice. And there was also a time when you could have hiked out to Georges Bank. Now according to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences, Boston could once more be under water (literally, not financially). The town is one of many coastal cities, including New York and Miami, that could see high tides flooding commonly used streets and neighborhoods in the next decades or so as a result of rising sea levels created by global climate change. And more high water to come in the next fifty years.
The last time Boston flooded entirely was about 11,000 years ago, as a result of the melting of the glacier.
This time around, it will happen from the same reason—melting ice—only this time it will be the polar ice cap and the 600,000 square mile Greenland ice sheet. And this time around, it will be our own fault.
Last week I participated in a lively workshop at Iowa State University, looking at ways to make our energy, transportation, and water infrastructure more resilient and sustainable. Clean-energy options for generating electricity and fueling our cars, trucks, and buses were among the topics examined. Mechanisms for integrating ever-greater amounts of solar and wind power into our electric grid were creatively explored. Yet, on a hot midsummer day, we all sat in a conference hall so frigid that those smart enough to bring sweaters were soon wearing them.
I hadn't been so smart. As I shivered through the workshop's morning sessions, I struggled to keep my mind from wandering to that longed-for sweater, still neatly folded in a suitcase back in my hotel room. Finally I made a run for it. (To be honest, I made a drive for it.) Twenty minutes later, I was back at ISU's Memorial Union, finally able to focus on things weightier than my body's battle against the mechanical chill.
There, too, arctic summer struck despite the searing outdoor heat. The hotel's lobby was uncomfortably cold, and its super-sleek restaurant was bone-chilling -- surely no more than a few degrees above 60. Fleeing to my room to grab a jacket, I couldn't help wondering how many thousands of tons of CO2 Hyatt could save simply by setting its A/C to a bearable 75 to 78 degrees.
In the Boston Globe this past Sunday, Leon Neyfakh argues for jettisoning what UC Berkeley architecture professor Gail Brager calls the "thermal monotony" of our air-conditioned lives. It's well worth the read, if only to remind us how thermally resilient we all used to be.
A 7-year study just released by Kansas State University has found that wind turbines have no serious impacts on greater prairie chickens or their reproduction. This discovery is monumental.
In Harvest the Wind, I explore the concerns raised by some biologists that wind turbines could disrupt prairie chicken mating and nesting. It was thought that turbines, standing tall on the landscape, might be mistaken for trees on which predatory fowl could perch looking for food. Similar concerns have been raised about wind power's impact on sage grouse habitats in states like Wyoming.
While KSU's Brett Sandercock has reported that there may be some avoidance of turbines by female prairie chickens, data collected from nearly a thousand tagged birds has revealed an increase in female survival rates where turbines have been installed. One possible explanation - not studied in this survey - is that the predators themselves may be avoiding the turbines.
The KSU study may help shift the focus of biologists and wildlife managers to a more obvious and unequivocal threat to grassland fowl: the annual springtime conflagration that sweeps across much of the Kansas prairie, including 1.7 million acres in the Flint Hills. These fires are intentionally set by cattle ranchers, eager to promote the growth of grasses favorable to cattle grazing. On the downside, the torch-bearing ranchers who engage in "controlled burning" leave vast stretches of scorched, naked ground in their wake as they cruise the grasslands in their ATVs. After the spring burn, prairie chickens and other grassland fowl have too little thatch to make their nests and too little cover from soaring raptors.
A few years ago, EDP Renewables (then known as "Horizon Wind") collaborated with the Ranchland Trust of Kansas in creating conservation easements covering more than 25,000 acres of mixed and tallgrass prairie in the Smoky Hills. That important boon to grassland ecology was triggered, in part, by concern that the 67 turbines of EDPR's Meridian Way Wind Farm, located a short distance away in Cloud County, might end up harming prairie chicken nesting and mating. The company's concerns appear not to have been borne out in this particular case, yet conservation easements by responsible wind developers can go a long way toward creating goodwill while mitigating the environmental impacts of large-scale wind projects.
If there’s one thing
that stands out for me during my 25 years in Connecticut, it was the quiet but
delicious return of good food and local farms.
For readers who are
less than 40 years old, please remember, there were no farmers’ markets in the
state until 1978. Today, according to the Connecticut Department of
Agriculture, there are 118. There were also no community supported agriculture
farms. Today, according to Connecticut NOFA, there are 70.
Throughout the latter
decades of the 20th century, subdivisions were consuming the state’s
farmland faster than you could eat a Glastonbury peach. Today, between the
state’s farmland preservation program and the Connecticut Farmland Trust, over
325 farms and 40,000 acres have been permanently protected. Overall, the number
of farms is no longer on the decline but actually on the rise. And with equal
importance, residents living in lower income neighborhoods are witnessing a
return of supermarkets to some of the state’s worst food deserts.
Progress like this
cannot be taken for granted, nor can it go unattributed. It was due to the
public will, meaning the actions of thousands of informed Connecticut citizens,
policymakers, and concerned organizations who thoughtfully reshaped the
direction of the state’s then atrophying food system.
I sense such a
destiny-making moment is before Connecticut again. The passage of House Bill
6519, “An Act Concerning the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food,” would not
only make Connecticut the first state to require such labeling, it would also
give the state’s citizens a chance to chart the direction of their food system.
Labeling food products comprised of ingredients grown or raised by genetically
modified means will grant every Connecticut consumer the opportunity to make an
informed choice, just as they have done for local food, farmland protection,
and access to healthy food for all.
The efficacy and
safety of genetic modification is still in doubt and will be debated for some
time to come. Clearly, the public must engage in this debate and not concede
its outcome to a small number of profit-driven biotechnology corporations, scientists,
and federal officials. But given the pit-bull determination of the food
industry to fight every attempt to rein it in – a fight financed with
bottomless coffers – genetically engineered ingredients will remain on grocery
store shelves for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean that we have to
consume them if we don’t want to. Hence, the need for information, which is why
savvy marketers like Whole Foods will soon be labeling GE food.
It is prudent to beware
of food and farm corporations bearing gifts. Like a Trojan horse that appears
one morning on the town common, genetically engineered food proponents claim
that it poses no harm to humans or the environment, and that we need the
technology to feed the nine billion people expected by 2050. Consider the claims and the source. Already,
genetically engineered crops have been associated with the decline of monarch
butterfly populations as well as a greater degree of herbicide tolerance –
requiring more herbicides instead of less. Yields from GE seeds have shown
mixed results, not always exceeding those of conventional or hybridized seeds.
And United Nation’s bodies have not embraced GMOs as a way to feed a hungry
world, proposing instead more sustainable agriculture methods and a greater
emphasis on small-scale farming and social equity in developing nations.
uncharted territory where risk is prevalent, we should employ the precautionary
principle. This means that the introduction of new technologies require a much
higher level of certainty and scientific consensus than we currently have with
GMOs. As my mother taught me when I first learned to cross busy streets, look
both ways, look again and again, and then proceed with caution.
I’ve always been
proud of Connecticut’s independent streak. A tenacious refusal to accept pat
solutions and the mediocrity of market-driven events has served it well over
the years. Information is power because it gives people the power to choose and
to act. Labeling genetically engineered food will give the state’s consumers
the information they need to make their own choice while allowing its citizens
to choose the food system that reflects their needs and values.
A lively and lyrical account of one woman's unlikely apprenticeship on a national-park trail crew and what she discovers about nature, gender, and the value of hard work
Christine Byl first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail crew as a seasonal "traildog" maintaining mountain trails for the millions of visitors Glacier draws every year. Byl first thought of the job as a paycheck, a summer diversion, a welcome break from "the real world" before going on to graduate school. She came to find out that work in the woods on a trail crew was more demanding, more rewarding-more real-than she ever imagined.
During her first season, Byl embraces the backbreaking difficulty of the work, learning how to clear trees, move boulders, and build stairs in the backcountry. Her first mentors are the colorful characters with whom she works-the packers, sawyers, and traildogs from all walks of life-along with the tools in her hands: axe, shovel, chainsaw, rock bar. As she invests herself deeply in new work, the mountains, rivers, animals, and weather become teachers as well. While Byl expected that her tenure at the parks would be temporary, she ends up turning this summer gig into a decades-long job, moving from Montana to Alaska, breaking expectations-including her own-that she would follow a "professional" career path.
Returning season after season, she eventually leads her own crews, mentoring other trail dogs along the way. In Dirt Work, Byl probes common assumptions about the division between mental and physical labor, "women's work" and "men's work," white collars and blue collars. The supposedly simple work of digging holes, dropping trees, and blasting snowdrifts in fact offers her an education of the hands and the head, as well as membership in an utterly unique subculture. Dirt Work is a contemplative but unsentimental look at the pleasures of labor, the challenges of apprenticeship, and the way a place becomes a home.
Christine Byl lives on a few acres of tundra north of Denali National Park outside the town of Healy, Alaska, with her husband and an old sled dog. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, and her stories and essays have appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies. She owns and operates a small trail design and construction business.
In honor of Earth Day, we asked a handful of our nature writers: "What
is one thing that people should do to connect with nature? Why
is it important?" Here are their responses. Read, enjoy, and GET OUTSIDE!
Go outside. Be outside. It sounds obvious, I
know, but it's amazing how easy it is to forget this. In the noble but often
all-consuming quest to make sustainable choices and fight big environmental
battles and visit spectacular places, daily time spent present in the outdoors—skiing,
walking the dog, splitting wood, just watching—is the most grounding thing I
know of. It not only hitches me to the details and inhabitants of my own place,
it reminds me that I am nature. Not separate from it. As reliant on my
ecosystem—no matter how fragile or fractured—as a chickadee, a birch tree, a
moose. For me, this realization is the most important thing: the world is my
The best way I know to connect with nature,
sullied and otherwise, is to spend a week descending a river in a canoe. Why a
river? Because water is the root of all biology, and gravity is its only motor.
Why a week? Experienced paddlers agree that it takes at least three days to
leave day-to-day time-clocked headspace behind and enter "river
time," leaving at least three days of circadian gravy. Why is it
important? You can tell me when you get back.
So many things come to mind
with this question, the biggest one being: Go outside. Alone. Spend time alone in nature. But something even more important, I think,
is to come to know well one wild creature that lives where you do. Today,
after cleaning my teeth, the dental hygienist showed me a photo she'd taken and
posted on her Facebook page. It was a photo of a coyote with a dead
snowshoe hare in its jaws that she took near her house. The big white
feet of the hare looked longer than the coyote's face. The coyote's coat
was thick and luxurious. She told me she'd seen lots of showshoe hare
tracks in the snow on her walks, but that was the first hare she'd seen in a while.
She told me she'd dreamed once of being a wildlife biologist. But in a
way, she is. She is a citizen biologist. Because she knows these
creatures intimately, knows their habits, she couldn't stand by if something
threatened them. I believe she'd act. So my advice for Earth
Day is to come to know a species of wild creature that shares your habitat,
even if it's just a house sparrow.
Or a flock of crows. Or a family of raccoons. Or monarch
butterflies. Or a spider. Consider it a neighbor, not just another
animal. When you encounter this animal on your walks outside (alone as
often as you can) say hello, even if it's just a whisper, or a voice in your
It may be a sad and telling measure of our disconnection
from nature that we even feel the need to contemplate the question, “What is one thing that people should do to
connect with nature, and why is it important?” It implies that the
objective is difficult to achieve, requires time and effort, and one can only
attain this level of connectedness through methodical planning and perhaps a
good self-help book. It’s not, it doesn’t, and you don’t really need anything
more than a doorway to a natural environment.
A regular fix of nature doesn’t have to be complicated or
time-consuming. One deep irony being an outdoor writer who works at home is
that I can go an entire day literally without stepping outside once. It’s
easy, in fact, to get lost in what I’m working on and suddenly realize, at the
end of the day, that I have no idea whether it’s warm or cold outside, sunny,
windy, or snowing. Then I know what I have to do: walk out into my back yard.
I take nothing—especially not my phone. I have two trees and
a garden and it’s mostly quiet back there except for the birds flitting between
my trees. I see the colors of flowers and drink in a big visual gulp of green.
In an adequate dose, green can solve any problem; I’m convinced of that. And I
just stand out there, doing nothing except listening and watching—feeling the
sun’s warmth, the breeze on my arms. My blood pressure takes a nice, healthful
dip and levels off. I’m pretty sure it does, anyway, based on the instantaneous
sense of relaxation I gain just by stepping out there.
Often, I only spend ten minutes in my yard—not a very deep
commitment to connecting with nature on a given day, I admit. But there’s a
huge ROI in psychological and emotional gains for the insignificant time and effort
invested. I’m no health professional or psychologist, but I will confidently
predict that if you carve out ten minutes in every workday to stand under trees
and listen to birds singing, you will live longer, raise smarter children,
develop amazing abs, enjoy a more vigorous sex life, and smile more often. Or
at least the last thing.
I need and regularly get more than ten minutes a day outside
(in a good week, all day, every day). You should, too. Leave home for a day or
a week and go someplace off the grid. Hike a mountain, paddle a river, climb a
cliff, sit by a lake, fish a stream. We evolved to live in the natural world
and we starve ourselves physically and emotionally when we divorce ourselves
But in the interim, those ten minutes under a tree—now
that’s the ticket.
Richly informative, calmly passionate and much needed, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” completes the portrait of a working-class activist who looked poverty and discrimination squarely in the face and never stopped rebelling against them, in the segregated South and in the segregated North.
Author Jeanne Theoharis appeared this morning on Democracy Now! with Claudette Colvin, a civil-rights pioneer who was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat in Montgomery in March 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks. Jeanne discusses Claudette’s story in the context of her research into the local civil-rights movement at the time, and suggests Colvin’s case help set the stage for Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. It’s a really special 35-minute interview.
MakeitMissoula.com review: "Several times while reading the book, I had to just stop, sit back and admire a chunk of imagery crafted by a man who can just flat-out write. "
Mountain West News review: "Montana needs a book like this. We need to remember the past. We need to be mindful of the present. We need to say thanks to all those who strife to do the right thing. We need more journalists like Brad Tyer to keep us humble."
Michael Bronski, the author of A Queer History of the United States and a Harvard professor, notes that sentimental arguments have become increasingly prevalent, and successful, in social movements over the last century. "Uncle Tom's Cabin was far more effective than quoting biblical texts or making a constitutional argument and abolitionist writings are filled with the tragedy of children being torn away from their mothers," Bronski said in an interview. "Suffragists mostly only used legal arguments but later, second wave feminism did better portraying a talented 12-year-old girl who wanted to play field hockey (or become a doctor) than in arguing for equal wages for female factory workers."
While the Court mulls, however, we'd like to clear up some misunderstanding. Take the "recent" institution of gay marriage, as Justice Samuel Alito seems bent on calling it. Alito is trying to dissuade any major ruling on the grounds that evidence on the effects of same-sex marriage is too little, too soon: "You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones and the internet?" he asked. "We do not have the ability to see the future."
Fortunately, we don't have to. We mere humans may not wear the robes of soothsayers (or Justices, for that matter), Mr. Alito, but we do have access to local libraries and the benefit of hindsight. While, yes, the formal institution of gay marriage is recent, author Rodger Streitmatter reminds us that gay folks have been resourcefully affirming their own versions of marriage for centuries. In fact, they've found ways of making it work with or without our questionably-gay-Uncle Sam's nodding approval.
My Mother's Wars is the memoir that Mary, a Latvian Jew and New York immigrant, “was never able to write.” Faderman shares her spirited mother’s story from life-altering experiences (the Nazi's brutal annihilation of Preil, the shetl where Mary was born) to mundane city moments. Each are rendered with poetry and frankness. Beginning in 1914, Faderman chronicles Mary’s futile love affair with commitment-phobic Moishe, the wrenching isolation of immigration and the insidious backdrop of antisemitism. Mary may not have been able to tell her story, but it’s testament to her incredible life that her daughter did it for her.
A memoir-meets-exposé that examines our fraught relationship with the West and our attempts to clean up a toxic environmental legacy
In 2002, Texas journalist Brad Tyer strapped a canoe on his truck and moved to Montana, a state that has long exerted a mythic pull on America's imagination as an unspoiled landscape. The son of an engineer who reclaimed wastewater, Tyer was looking for a pristine river to call his own. What he found instead was a century's worth of industrial poison clotting the Clark Fork River, a decades-long engineering project to clean it up, and a forgotten town named Opportunity.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Montana exploited the richest copper deposits in the world, fueling the electric growth of twentieth-century America and building some of the nation's most outlandish fortunes. The toxic byproduct of those fortunes-what didn't spill into the river-was dumped in Opportunity.
In the twenty-first century, Montana's draw is no longer metal, but landscape: the blue-ribbon trout streams and unspoiled wilderness of the nation's "last best place." To match reality to the myth, affluent exurbanites and well-meaning environmentalists are trying to restore the Clark Fork River to its "natural state." In the process, millions of tons of toxic soils are being removed and dumped-once again-in Opportunity. As Tyer investigates Opportunity's history, he wrestles with questions of environmental justice and the ethics of burdening one community with an entire region's waste.
Stalled at the intersection of a fading extractive economy and a fledgling restoration boom, Opportunity's story is a secret history of the American Dream, and a key to understanding the country's-and increasingly the globe's-demand for modern convenience.
As Tyer explores the degradations of the landscape, he also probes the parallel emotional geography of familial estrangement. Part personal history and part reportorial narrative, Opportunity, Montanais a story of progress and its price, of copper and water, of father and son, and of our attempts to redeem the mistakes of the past.
Brad Tyer is the managing editor of The Texas Observer in Austin. His writing has appeared in Outside, High Country News, the New York Times Book Review, the Houston Chronicle, the Drake, Texas Monthly, No Depression, and the Dallas Morning News. He's been awarded a Knight-Wallace Fellowship, a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant, and a Fishtrap writing residency.
Today is World Water Day. Observed every March 22nd, World Water Day reminds people around the globe about the importance of freshwater and urges them to advocate for the sustainable use of freshwater resources.
This year’s theme is water cooperation, a rallying cry to recognize water as a resource that we are all entitled to and for which management responsibility is shared. On the surface, coming together as a global community for the good of water sustainability seems simple. But freshwater is becoming a scarce resource—one that is not evenly distributed around the world. And, with climate change shifting growing seasons and sea levels, our understanding of water’s boundaries and availabily is becoming even more muddled. To ensure a viable future, water must be a shared, not bought and sold to the highest bidder, not polluted and ignored at the detriment of our communities.
In addition to the small steps towards water conservation that people
can take each day, World Water Day asks us to look toward the future,
understand the realities of the water crisis that we as a planet are
facing, and take steps to change it.
At Beacon Press, we have published a number of books over the last decade that explore water usage and sustainability concerns from a variety of perspectives. Below are six titles that focus on the many ways access to water affects our lives, and uncover how the lack of collaboration by individuals, corporations, and government agencies has put us on a perilous path towards international water shortages.
The first book to call for a national water ethic, Blue Revolution is a powerful meditation on water and community in America. The book combines investigative reporting with solutions from around the globe to show how local communities and entire nations can come together to stretch vanishing water supplies and protect themselves from increasingly devastating floods. Barnett challenges the conventional wisdom that the United States can build its way out of water crisis and argues that no solution would be more powerful than an ethic for water—embraced not only by citizens, but by government and major water users including the energy and agricultural sectors.
Journalist Brad Tyer moved to Montana looking for big skies, clear waters, and change of scenery. But, soon after he arrived he discovered that “the treasure state” had buried secrets. Opportunity, Montana explores how a century of copper mining devastated the Clark Fork River, which runs through the state of Montana, as it took on the bulk of the pollutants and industrial waste. In the 1980s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the river as a Superfund site in need of environmental clean-up—one of seventeen in the state. It took twenty years for the EPA and the responsible parties to agree on what to do about it, and another ten before any change would be seen. How do you fix a broken river, Tyer asks? The financial implications, estimated to be 1.3 billion dollars, were just the beginning. First, 400 acres of toxic sediment had to be dug up and disposed of, and as Tyer discovered, mining waste doesn’t go away, it just gets moved and covered up. For the second time in Montana’s copper history, that burden would fall on the small town of Opportunity.
In the last decade, the inventory of dams in the United States has been reduced by nearly 500. Though many of those have been small, privately-owned ventures, the positive impact has led to proposals for larger dam removal projects nationally. In Recovering A Lost River, Hawley advocates for the removal of dams and the restoration of the rich and thriving environments that can be found in and around free flowing water. Assessing the current state of freshwater ecosystems nationally, he reports that a third of freshwater species are threatened or endangered, forty percent of freshwater bodies in America are too polluted for swimming or fishing, and half of the nation’s wetlands are gone. This book is a call to action for overcoming corporate and federal obstacles in order to restore free flowing waterways and reinvigorate long suffering wildernesses.
In 2007, When the Rivers Run Dry was a groundbreaking exploration on the state of water sources around the world, and the looming possibility of a world-wide water shortage. It is now considered to be required reading for anyone looking to understand the water crisis.
In 2012, Fred Pearce revisited the issue of water sustainability in The Land Grabbers, exploring how the need for abundant water in industrial agriculture has resulted in wealthy countries and powerful corporations in need of water seeking to obtain it, while impoverished countries with access to water are looking to profit from it. These practices have led to the exploitation of vulnerable land, people, and water, with the potential for devastating consequences.
In 2001, at the age of twenty-two, Rajeev Goyal joined the Peace Corps. Assigned to teach English in Nepal, he found himself in the remote mountain town of Namje where villagers spend most of their day walking to and from a far-off stream to fetch water. Goyal sets out to create a water project that would pump water directly into the town, in hopes of improving every part of village life, from health and prosperity to education. With the support and dedication of the villagers, the mission is successful, but the long-term consequences of development go beyond anything Goyal could have imagined. The Springs of Namje explores how water can hold back or propel a community forward.
Faced with rising anger from environmentalists last year over his plans for a transcontinental pipeline to deliver treacly Canadian tar sands to Texas oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, the CEO of TransCanada, Russ Girling, expressed surprise. After all, his company had laid 300,000 kilometers of such pipes across North America. "The pipeline is routine. Something we do every day," he told Canadian journalists.
But that's the point. It is routine. The oil industry does do it every day. And if it carries on, it will wreck the world.
We need not rely on climate-changing fossil fuels. Alternative energy technologies are available. But fossil fuels, and the pipelines and other 20th-century infrastructure that underpin them, have created what John Schellnhuber, director of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, describes in a new paper as "lock-in dominance" (PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1219791110). Even though we know how harmful it is, the "largest business on Earth" has ossified and is proving immovable, he says.
The question is how to break the lock and let in alternatives. Schellnhuber, a wily and worldly climate scientist, has an idea, to which I will return. But first the tar-sands pipeline, known as Keystone XL in the parlance of outsize clothing. Proponents say it would create jobs and improve US energy security. But for environmentalists in the US, the decision—due any time— on whether it should go ahead is a touchstone for Barack Obama's willingness to confront climate change in his second term.
Superficially, Keystone XL doesn't look like a huge deal. Since 2010, there has been a cross-border pipe bringing oil from tar sands in northern Alberta to the US Midwest. But this second link would double capacity and deliver oil to the refineries of the Gulf for global export. It looks like the key to a planned doubling of output from one of the world's largest deposits of one of the world's dirtiest fuels. And because the pipe would cross the US border, it requires state department and presidential sign-off.
Environmentalists are up in arms. They fear leaks. No matter what its sponsors suggest, this is no ordinary pipeline. The tar-sands oil— essentially diluted bitumen— is more acidic than regular oil and contains more sediment and moves at higher pressures. Critics say it risks corroding and grinding away the insides of the pipes. The US National Academy of Sciences has just begun a study on this, but its findings will probably be too late to influence Obama.
If there is a leak, clean-up will be difficult, as shown by the messy, protracted and acrimonious attempt to cleanse the Kalamazoo river in Michigan after tar-sands oil oozed into it in 2010.
To make matters worse, the pipeline would cross almost the entire length of the Ogallala aquifer, one of the world's largest underground water reserves, from South Dakota to Texas. Ogallala is a lifeline for the dust-bowl states of the Midwest. While TransCanada has agreed to bypass the ecologically important Sand Hills of Nebraska, where the water table is only 6 metres below the surface in places, a big unseen spill could still be disastrous.
Climate change is still the biggest deal. Extracting and processing tar sands creates a carbon footprint three times that of conventional crude. Obama would rightly lose all environmental credibility if he were to approve a scheme to double his country's imports of this fossil-fuel basket case. Yet he may do it. Why? Because of fossil-fuel lock-in. Changing course is hard. Really hard.
Part of the reason for the lock-in is the vast infrastructure dedicated to sustaining the supply of coal, oil and gas. There is no better symbol of that than a new pipeline. Partly it is political. Nobody has more political muscle than the fossil fuel industry, especially in Washington. And partly it is commercial. As Schellnhuber puts it: "Heavy investments in fossil fuels have led to big profits for shareholders, which in turn leads to greater investments in technologies that have proven to be profitable."
The result is domination by an outdated energy system that stifles alternatives. The potential for a renewable energy revolution is often compared to that of the IT revolution 30 years ago. But IT had little to fight except armies of clerks. Schellnhuber compares this lock-in to the synapses of an ageing human brain so exposed to repetitious thought that it "becomes addicted to specific observations and impressions to the exclusion of alternatives". Or, as Girling puts it, new pipelines become "routine".
What might free us from this addiction? With politicians weak, an obvious answer is to hold companies more financially accountable for environmental damage, including climate change. But Schellnhuber says this won't be enough unless individual shareholders become personally liable, too.
Here, he says, the problem is the public limited company (PLC), or publicly traded company in the US, which insulates shareholders from the consequences of decisions taken in their name. Even if their company goes bankrupt with huge debts, all they lose is the value of their shares. The PLC was invented to promote risk-taking in business. But it can also be an environmental menace, massively reducing incentives for industries to clean up their acts.
"If shareholders were held liable," he says, "then next time they might consider the risk before investing or reinvesting." More importantly, it could prevent us being locked into 20th century technologies that are quite incapable of solving 21st century problems. Fat chance, many might say. But just maybe Keystone XL and its uncanny ability to draw global attention will help catalyze growing anger at the environmental immunity of corporate shareholders.
Science entwines with matters of the human heart as a whale researcher chronicles the lives of an endangered family of orcas
A question we all eventually face is whether we have the courage to love someone or something when we know we are going to lose them. In Eva Saulitis's case, her answer is a resounding yes.
At twenty-three, as an idealistic college graduate, Saulitis drove to Alaska to work in a remote salmon hatchery. There, on a winter day, she saw her first orca. Over the next twenty years, as she found her footing as a biologist, she was drawn deeply into the lives of a unique and endangered orca population struggling to survive in Prince William Sound. She came to know and love the whales as a culture and as individuals. In 1989, she witnessed first-hand the devastation wrought by the Exxon Valdez oil spill-after which not a single calf was born to the group.
With the intellectual rigor of a scientist and the heart of a poet, Saulitis renders the whales' secretive lives, as well as the abundant life of the waters-the birds, seals, and otters with whom the orcas share their world. Vividly she conveys the whales' personalities, from the matriarch Chenega and her companions to the trio of mischievous "Bad Boys," and the majestic Eyak, who sang like a siren.
In the wake of the recent BP oil spill, we still don't know what the long-term effects on marine life might be. From the vantage of over twenty years dealing with the aftermath of the Valdez spill, Saulitis shows how a group of shy orcas carrying out their lives in a remote corner of Alaska have something to teach us about our connectedness to animals to place-and what we stand to lose if we don't protect both.
Both an elegy for one orca family and a celebration of a species, Into Great Silence speaks for all vanishing species in an increasingly vulnerable natural world.
“[A] sensitively written memoir...Readers who enjoyed Alexandra Morton’s Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us will be fascinated by Saulitis’ account of her often remove, cold, and wet life as a field biologist and her respect for the whales and the people who lived around her.” Library Journal
"A vivid, moving depiction of a way of life tragically becoming increasingly endangered." Kirkus Reviews
"Saulitis' stunning and sorrowful "book of contemplation" elucidates the discipline, tedium, danger, and bliss of whale studies; the solace she finds in art; and her intense relationships with her fellow orca experts. Candid, transfixing, and cautionary, Saulitis celebrates and mourns for a wondrous and imperiled species." Booklist
"Eva Saulitis is a rare creature herself: a scientist with a poetic soul, a philosopher, a gifted writer. Into Great Silence is at once a love song to a wild place, an elegy, an inquiry into purpose and change, and a call to bring all our senses and ways of knowing to understanding and protecting our fragile world." —Nancy Lord, author of Fishcamp and Beluga Days
Eva Saulitis has studied whales in Prince William Sound, the Kenai Fjords, and Alaska's Aleutian Islands for the past twenty-four years. In addition to her scientific publications, her essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in numerous national journals, including Orion, Crazyhorse, and Prairie Schooner. The author of the essay collection Leaving Resurrection and the poetry collection Many Ways to Say It, she teaches at Kenai Peninsula College, in the low-residency MFA program at the University of Alaska, and at the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference. She lives in Homer, Alaska.
An interview with authors DeWolf and Morgan on NPR’s Tell Me Moreaired Christmas Day.
The authors begin the West Coast leg of their tour this
weekend. The entire month of January, they’ll be making appearances in
Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado. Check out their website for more info.
Booklist review, Jan
01: “Saulitis’ stunning and sorrowful ‘book of contemplation’ elucidates the
discipline, tedium, danger, and bliss of whale studies… Candid, transfixing,
and cautionary, Saulitis celebrates and mourns for a wondrous and imperiled
Intensive Care: A Doctor’s Journey by Danielle
Ofri (March 05)
Kirkus Reviews in print (Jan. 15) and online
(Jan. 01): “in sharp, take-no-prisoners prose, Khalidi maintains that the U.S.
and Israel… have conspired to deny Palestinians any semblance of
self-determination. A stinging indictment of one-sided policymaking
destined, if undisturbed, to result in even greater violence.”
“Drawing on his own experience as
a Palestinian negotiator and recently released documents, Rashid Khalidi mounts
a frontal attack on the myths and misconceptions that have come to surround
America’s role in the so-called “peace process” which is all process and no
peace. The title is not too strong: the book demonstrates conclusively
that far from serving as an honest broker, the US continues to act as Israel’s lawyer
– with dire consequences for its own interests, for the Palestinians, and for
the entire region. Professor Khalidi deserves much credit for his superb
exposition of the fatal gap between the rhetoric and reality of American
diplomacy on this critically important issue.” —Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International
Relations at Oxford and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.
"Every denizen of wild places
from Laotse to St. Francis to Rachel Carson to black bears to field mice has
depended upon trails. But rarely have we considered the people, tools, or toil
that lay our favorite trails down. Dirt Work is a spectacular correction of
this omission. Imbued with a tough-minded, ribald reverence for honest labor
that brings to mind a female Gary Snyder or Wendell Berry (if you can imagine
that!), Christine Byl does epic justice to the whole-bodied satisfactions that
come of staying out in the weather, staying alert, and working one’s ass off
for others with love, tenacity and skill." --David James Duncan,
author of The River Why and Sun House.
“Christine Byl has been summering
on trail crews for more than a decade and a half. A first-rate storyteller, she
details the techniques and tools, and the spirit of fellowship and feel of the
woods. If you love getting into the back country, or even if you're an armchair
backpacker as I am now at age eighty, you'll love Dirt Work.”
--William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky and The
Nature of Generosity
“Byl’s is not a world of groomed
nature, inert tools, or nostalgic rituals, but a vibrant landscape inhabited by
people and animals and layered by idea and history. She means this book as a
love song, she writes, and it is, not only from her to her fellow laborers, but
from the mind to the body, the hand to the tool, the human to the wild.” —Sherry
Simpson, author of The Accidental Explorer: Wayfinding in Alaska
Today's post might provide a little inspiration for your 2013 vacation, much as editor Alexis Rizzuto received for her outdoor adventures.
At this time of year, I start pulling out maps and guidebooks and poring over my lengthy—and always growing—list of outdoor trips I want to take. (My document slugged “Trip Ideas” is now 11,855 words long.) There are two reasons: First, to make those big dream trips happen, you have to think, plan, and dream months in advance. Plus, the planning is almost as much fun as taking the trip.
Here are my 10 favorite family adventures at The Big Outside (another list that will keep growing and evolving), to help give you some ideas and inspiration for 2013. All have a story and photo gallery, and most also have a video. In a couple of weeks, I’ll share my list of 10 all-time favorite adventures at The Big Outside, domestic and international, that are not necessarily for families—although there are definitely trips that could be on either list (and there’s no overlap between the two lists).
Here’s wishing you an adventurous 2013.
Campsite below Zoroaster Temple, along the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.
In late July, I had the chance to revisit
Cloud County with my wife Tamar. This remote corner of north-central Kansas was
the starting point for my wind power research back in 2009, and I have
maintained close ties with people in the community ever since.
The occasion for our visit was a book talk hosted by EDP Renewables North America, owner of a
201-megawatt wind farm that was built in 2008, and Cloud County Community College, home to one of
the nation’s leading wind energy technology training programs. A good-sized
crowd gathered for the talk, undaunted by the 105-degree mid-afternoon heat
during a drought that tested the nerves and strained the budgets of many Cloud
County farmers and ranchers.
Income from the Meridian Way Wind Farm offers a much-valued
hedge against turbulence in the Cloud County farm economy. In summers like this
past one, crops may wither and cattle may need to be shipped out to feedlots
earlier than planned, but wind farm hosts can rely on the continuity of lease
payments for wind turbines and access roads on their property. These annuities
amount to tens of thousands of dollars for many landowners.
In addition, Cloud County benefits from a voluntary contribution
made each year by EDP Renewables, to be used for economic development projects.
During the past few years this payment has amounted to $200,000, and it is expected
to rise to $300,000 next year.
Beyond these economic gains, wind power development has brought
a renewed sense of pride to Cloud County Community College. The college’s wind
energy program is now in its fifth year, with over a hundred students enrolled
today. In addition to kids coming straight out of high school, the program has
trained retired Army careerists, former schoolteachers and office
administrators, and many from the construction trades that were hit so hard by
In the article that appears in Terrain.org, readers can look
more closely at the lives of Cloud County farmers, ranchers, educators, and
wind farm operators - all beneficiaries of the boost that wind power has
brought to their community.
Fifty years ago today, Houghton Mifflin published Rachel Carson's revolutionary book Silent Spring. In honor of the anniversary, we share this excerpt from Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson, a collection edited by Linda Lear and published by Beacon in 1998.
Linda Lear is a biographer and historian. She is the author of the acclaimed biography of Rachel Carson, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. Lear’s research papers and adjunct collections dealing with Carson’s life, Carson’s friends and colleagues, and the controversy over Silent Spring form the core of the Lear/Carson Collection at The Linda Lear Center for Archives and Special Collections at Connecticut College. Find out more about Carson, Linda Lear, and upcoming events at RachelCarson.org.
This address to the Women’s National Press Club (December 1962) stands as one of Carson’s most important statements following publication of Silent Spring and the beginning of the ferocious industry backlash against her. Like Silent Spring, her speech can be read as a democratic manifesto in the long tradition from Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe through Martin Luther King Jr. Carson dares to suggest here that “profit and production” might be motives that would make industry and government officials lie to the public about what was being done to the environment and to the whole fabric of life. This was an astonishing idea in the Cold War. Like those who came before her, Carson as an individual was pushing back to power and in doing so she was declaring that environmental rights were also human rights.—Linda Lear, September 2012
My text this afternoon is taken from the Globe
Times of Bethlehem, Pa., a news item in the issue of October 12. After
describing in detail the adverse reactions to Silent Spring of the farm
bureaus in two Pennsylvania counties, the reporter continued: “No one in either
county farm office who was talked to today had read the book, but all
disapproved of it heartily.”
This sums up very neatly the background of much of
the noisier comment that has been heard in this unquiet autumn following the
publication of Silent Spring. In the words of an editorial in the Bennington
Banner, “The anguished reaction to Silent Spring has been to refute
statements that were never made.” Whether this kind of refutation comes from
people who actually have not read the book or from those who find it convenient
to misrepresent my position I leave it to others to judge.
Early in the summer–as soon as the first
installment of the book appeared in the New Yorker–public reaction to Silent
Spring was reflected in a tidal wave of letters–letters to Congressmen, to
newspapers, to Government agencies, to the author. These letters continue to
come and I am sure represent the most important and lasting reaction.
Even before the book was published, editorials and
columns by the hundreds had discussed it all over the country. Early reaction
in the chemical press was somewhat moderate, and in fact I have had fine
support from some segments of both chemical and agricultural press. But in
general, as was to be expected, the industry press was not happy. By late
summer the printing presses of the pesticide industry and their trade
associations had begun to pour out the first of a growing stream of booklets
designed to protect and repair the somewhat battered image of pesticides. Plans
are announced for quarterly mailings to opinion leaders and for monthly news
stories to newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. Speakers are
addressing audiences everywhere.
It is clear that we are all to receive heavy doses
of tranquilizing information, designed to lull the public into the sleep from
which Silent Spring so rudely awakened it. Some definite gains toward a
saner policy of pest control have been made in recent months. The important
issue now is whether we are to hold and extend those gains.
The attack is now falling into a definite pattern
and all the well-known devices are being used. One obvious way to try to weaken
a cause is to discredit the person who champions it. So the masters of
invective and insinuation have been busy: I am a “bird lover – a cat lover – a
fish lover”– a priestess of nature – a devotee of a mystical cult having to do
with laws of the universe which my critics consider themselves immune to.
Another piece in the pattern of attack largely
ignores Silent Spring and concentrates on what I suppose would be called
the soft sell, the soothing reassurances to the public. Some of these
acknowledge the correctness of my facts, but say that the incidents I reported
occurred some time in the past, that industry and Government are well aware of
them and have long since taken steps to prevent their recurrence. It must be
assumed that the people who read these comforting reports read nothing else in
their newspapers. Actually, pesticides have figured rather prominently in the
news in recent months: some items trivial, some almost humorous, some
These reports do not differ in any important way
from the examples I cited in Silent Spring, so if the situation is under
better control there is little evidence of it.
We are told also that chemicals are never used
unless tests have shown them to be safe. This, of course, is not an accurate
statement. I am happy to see that the Department of Agriculture plans to ask
the Congress to amend the FIFRA to do away with the provision that now permits
a company to register a pesticide under protest, even though a question of
health or safety has been raised by the Department.
We have other reminders that unsafe chemicals get
into use – County Agents frequently have to amend or rescind earlier advices on
the use of pesticides. For example, a letter was recently sent out to farmers
recalling stocks of a chemical in use as a cattle spray. In September,
“unexplained losses” occurred following its use. Several suspected production
lots were recalled but the losses continued. All outstanding lots of the
chemical have now had to be recalled.
Inaccurate statements in reviews of Silent
Spring are a dime a dozen, and I shall only mention one or two examples. Time,
in its discussion of Silent Spring, described accidental poisonings
from pesticides as very rare. Let’s look at a few figures. California,
the only state that keeps accurate and complete records, reports from 900 to
1000 cases of poisoning from agricultural chemicals per year. About 200 of these
are from parathion alone. Florida has experienced so many poisonings recently
that this state has attempted to control the use of the more dangerous
chemicals in residential areas. As a sample of conditions in other countries,
parathion was responsible for 100 deaths in India in 1958 and takes an average
of 336 deaths a year in Japan.
It is also worthy of note that during the years
1959, 1960, and 1961, airplane crashes involving crop-dusting planes totaled
873. In these accidents 135 pilots lost their lives. This very fact has led to
some significant research by the Federal Aviation Agency through its Civil
Aeromedical Unit – research designed to find out why so many of these
planes crashed. These medical investigators took as their basic premise the
assumption that spray poisons accumulate in the pilot’s body – inside the
cells, where they are difficult to detect.
These researchers recently reported that they had
confirmed two very significant facts: 1. That there is a causal relation
between the build-up of toxins in the cell and the onset of sugar diabetes. 2.
That the build-up of poisons within the cell interferes with the rate of energy
production in the human body.
I am, of course, happy to have this confirmation
that cellular processes are not so “irrelevant” as a certain scientific
reviewer of Silent Spring has declared them to be.
This same reviewer, writing in a chemical journal,
was much annoyed with me for giving the sources of my information. To identify
the person whose views you are quoting is, according to this reviewer, name-dropping.
Well, times have certainly changed since I received my training in the
scientific method at Johns Hopkins! My critic also profoundly disapproved of
my bibliography. The very fact that it gave complete and specific references
for each important statement was extremely distasteful to him. This was padding
to impress the uninitiated with its length.
Now I would like to say that in Silent Spring I
have never asked the reader to take my word. I have given him a very clear
indication of my sources. I make it possible for him – indeed I invite him – to
go beyond what I report and get the full picture. This is the reason for the 55
pages of references. You cannot do this if you are trying to conceal or distort
or to present half truths.
Another reviewer was offended because I made the
statement that it is customary for pesticide manufacturers to support research
on chemicals in the universities. Now, this is just common knowledge and I can
scarcely believe the reviewer is unaware of it, because his own university is
among those receiving such grants.
A penetrating observer of social problems has
pointed out recently that whereas wealthy families once were the chief
benefactors of the Universities, now industry has taken over this role. Support
of education is something no one quarrels with – but this need not blind us to
the fact that research supported by pesticide manufacturers is not likely to be
directed at discovering facts indicating unfavorable effects of pesticides.
Such a liaison between science and industry is a
growing phenomenon, seen in other areas as well. The AMA, through its
newspaper, has just referred physicians to a pesticide trade association for
information to help them answer patients’ questions about the effects of
pesticides on man. I am sure physicians have a need for information on this
subject. But I would like to see them referred to authoritative scientific or
medical literature – not to a trade organization whose business it is to
promote the sale of pesticides.
We see scientific societies acknowledging as
“sustaining associates” a dozen or more giants of a related industry. When the
scientific organization speaks, whose voice do we hear–that of science? or of
the sustaining industry? It might be a less serious situation if this voice
were always clearly identified, but the public assumes it is hearing the voice
What does it mean when we see a committee set up to
make a supposedly impartial review of a situation, and then discover that the
committee is affiliated with the very industry whose profits are at stake? I
have this week read two reviews of the recent reports of a National Academy of
Sciences Committee on the relations of pesticides to wildlife. These reviews
raise disturbing questions. It is important to understand just what this
committee is. The two sections of its report that have now been published are
frequently cited by the pesticide industry in attempts to refute my statements.
The public, I believe, assumes that the Committee is actually part of the
Academy. Although appointed by the Academy, its members come from outside. Some
are scientists of distinction in their fields. One would suppose the way to get
an impartial evaluation of the impact of pesticides on wildlife would be to set
up a committee of completely disinterested individuals. But the review
appearing this week in The Atlantic Naturalist described the composition
of the Committee as follows: “A very significant role in this committee is
played by the Liaison Representatives. These are of three categories. A.)
Supporting Agencies. B.) Government Agencies. C.) Scientific Societies. The
supporting agencies are presumably those who supply the hard cash. Forty-three
such agencies are listed, including 19 chemical companies comprising the massed
might of the chemical industry. In addition, there are at least four trade
organizations such as the National Agricultural Chemical Association and the
National Aviation Trades Association.”
The Committee reports begin with a firm statement
in support of the use of chemical pesticides. From this predetermined position,
it is not surprising to find it mentioning only some damage to some wildlife.
Since, in the modern manner, there is no documentation, one can neither confirm
or deny its findings. The Atlantic Naturalist reviewer described the
reports as “written in the style of a trained public relations official of
industry out to placate some segments of the public that are causing trouble.”
All of these things raise the question of the
communication of scientific knowledge to the public. Is industry becoming a
screen through which facts must be filtered, so that the hard, uncomfortable
truths are kept back and only the harmless morsels allowed to filter through? I
know that many thoughtful scientists are deeply disturbed that their
organizations are becoming fronts for industry. More than one scientist
has raised a disturbing question – whether a spirit of lysenkoism may be
developing in America today – the philosophy that perverted and destroyed the
science of genetics in Russia and even infiltrated all of that nation’s
agricultural sciences. But here the tailoring, the screening of basic truth, is
done, not to suit a party line, but to accommodate to the short-term gain, to serve
the gods of profit and production.
least, before you pull out your wallet, think about the forced student
labor, the warlords who
benefit from mineral smuggling, the children exposed to toxic waste from old phones, and the pile of useless accessories you'll throw
With its constant pitching of the
newest cool thing to replace its previous newest cool thing, Apple has always been
one of the worst violators of the environmentalist credo “reduce, reuse,
recycle.” It barely gives customers a chance to use its toys, let alone reuse,
before making the toy obsolete and unfashionable.
But with the
iPhone 5, Apple has really outdone
instance, customers have recently become aware that iPhones and other Apple
gizmos are made in crowded and unsafe Chinese factories where people toil 15
hours a day for barely $50 a month. That’s
bad enough. Then, just a week before the iPhone 5 went on sale, it was revealed
that the factories had dragooned students onto the assembly lines in a rush to
get the phones made on time, threatening to kick them out of school if they
Nor has anything been done to ameliorate
the environmental problems. As with any product, making an iPhone uses up resources
for the components, ingredients, packaging, and marketing, and also uses fuel
and creates carbon emissions in the manufacturing and shipping processes. Again,
iPhones are worse than the average, because their components include dangerous
metals and ores like coltan, which is found only in endangered gorilla habitats
or in African war zones where the profits get siphoned by warlords.
Today's post is from Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher of Beacon Press.
I was thrilled when I realized that our family’s annual White Mountains High Huts trip would coincide with one by Beacon author Michael Lanza and his family. We made plans to hike together on the Webster Jackson trail and exchanged cell phone numbers. Michael and his family arrived first and, with Nate and Alix eager to start their climb, set off. Michael texted to say that they we were just a few minutes ahead of us, assuming that two adults would be able to catch up with hikers going at a “family pace.” It never happened (see trail photo). My brother-in-law and I had a great hike at our own pace and met other family and friends at Appalachian Mountain Club's Mizpah Hut, hiking to Lake of the Clouds the following day. Our own “Before They’re Gone” moment came when the hut naturalist told us that the entire White Mountains alpine zone, the largest one east of the Rockies, could be gone in 25 years, as a result of acid rain. Hiking in the alpine zones of the Whites is an incredible experience, whether you’re in a cloud (which you are half the time) or making the trip on a clear day. I always return feeling gratitude to the AMC staff and volunteers for all they do to protect this environment and make it possible for us to experience it.