Facing the Climate Catastrophe

On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its assessment of the state of the climate — the panel’s grimmest yet. The window to stop some of the worst effects of the climate crisis is rapidly closing, the report found, and world leaders must act with urgency to prevent catastrophe.

The report, prepared by more than 200 top scientists around the globe and approved by the 195 UN member states, is the first of three expected this year to inform emission reduction commitments at the 26th annual international summit known as the Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) this November in Glasgow, Scotland.

Photo: Sunset over St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park. The namesake glaciers at this park are rapidly melting as a result of climate change. In 1850, the region had 150 glaciers. There are now just 25 left. Photo © Kan1234/Dreamstime.

Source: Facing the Climate Catastrophe: What We Do Now Matters · National Parks Conservation Association

Do most people worry about climate change? Apparently more people are taking it seriously as shown, in part, by their willingness to switch to products that they think are better for the environment.

In this article, the NPCA suggests four critical areas we can focus on:

  • Reducing emissions from cars.
  • Retiring power plants to clear skies of haze pollution.
  • Reducing methane, one of the most potent climate-warming emissions, from oil and gas development.
  • Securing critical climate provisions in the federal budget.

Climate change is such a huge issue, it often seems outside the power of the individual to address. Articles like this one help us narrow down target areas where we can focus our efforts.

Malcolm

Loving our parks to death

You’ve heard the old story, one version or another, about a family who builds a cabin next to a lake or on a high hill where there’s a spectacular view. Their friends visit, some build next door, then one day a restaurant appears and a gas station and a traffic light and a hotel and, in time, the place is just as crowded as the neighborhoods in town everyone tried to escape.

The national parks are suffering a similar death, one in which most people consider humans to be the most invasive species with the once pristine preserve. Years ago, Glacier National Park was considered the most threatened park in the NPS system, primarily from air and water polution that arose outside its borders. Now the new threat comes from within as the NPS continues to resist putting a cap on the number of visitors allowed each year.

Glacier started a ticketed entry system this year. So far, it seems to be managing the traffic. The sad thing is this: it’s not reducing the traffic. A recent story said visitor counts on Sun Road in Glacier are up 41% over 2019. I had hoped the NPS would manage to reduce the number of visitors based on the premise that too many is too many if the park and its flora and fauna are to be preserved.

When a new building goes up in town, the fire marshal establishes a maximum occupancy in the name of safety. We  need a similar limit for parks because once our invasive species of humans have overrun the place, it will lose everything the NPS was supposed to be preserving. In Glacier, there are traffic jams not only to get into the park, but of hikers waiting to use popular trails like the High Line which, I suppose, will one day have a turnstile at each end to control access.

Unfortunately, the most viable way to reduce visitor counts is also the most unfair: charging so much that people cannot afford the bill. This means the rich get in and the poor do not. The ticketed entry system seems to be helping at Glacier. I look forward, though, to the next viable and democratic system that truly keeps each year’s visitor counts to a safe level.

In the 1960s when I worked in Glacier as a seasonal employee, we said, “Thank goodness nodody knows where this place is.” Unfortunately, they’ve found out. The park was overcrowded several years ago: letting more people in is not the answer we need.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Goodbye Charlie, now on the rainbow bridge

Charlie died of kidney failure. I can’t know this for sure, of course, but based on the speed of this whole thing, his eventual refusal to eat, and the anemia that was apparent from his tongue (it got progressively pale and was nearly white by the end), my vet said all signs pointed to kidney failure, too advanced by the time he showed symptoms to have done anything about. Charlie seemed to be improving for a couple of weeks which is why I thought it was arthritis and which, frankly, was the only reason I was capable of sharing that first update – and I’m so glad I did. Having you all looped in has helped me more than I ever could have imagined. We buried Charlie under his favorite tree.” – Shreve Stockton, weblog, 10/27/2020

I’ve been following Charlie’s exploits in Stockton’s blog “The Daily Coyote” from the beginning when she adopted the orphaned coyote pup in Wyoming in 2007, knowing that his life depended on her. They became companions (co-pilots, as she says, rather than master and pet) for the rest of Charlie’s life. Raising a wild thing: others said it couldn’t be done, but she did it well. You can find the story of her first year with Charlie in her 2008 book, also called The Daily Coyote.

Charlie came to Stockton’s ranch about the time I was researching my novel Sarabande.  A coyote has an important role in the book. I soon found that the up-close-and-personal research I needed didn’t exist–until Shreve was gracious and answered my e-mail questions. I included her name in the book’s acknowledgments, but that never seemed to be enough.

Inasmuch as I was reading about Charlie every day, I continued to learn about coyotes and should say that, though it wasn’t my intention, Charlie was the role model for Apí’si in my novel. So I will miss my “online friend” named Charlie though he doesn’t know me.

Early on in her blog, Shreve said that many people were asking how they could see Charlie. Her answer was simply this: “Charlie doesn’t want to see you.” That’s as it should be, and I understand.

Malcolm

We could have ended the world sooner and at a lower cost

Apparently, the movers and shakers of humankind have been working diligently to end the world. If not, we wouldn’t be where we are on so many fronts.

Except for various clans of deniers, including those who think history, science, and the notion of a round earth are bunk, most people are accepting climate change as inevitable. How do we know this? Because they’re keeping quiet, just watching it happen. Some people are fighting, speaking out, but it’s too little, too late.

The movers and shakers who–for reasons of insanity or short term gratification of the riches gained from habitat destruction–want the world to call it a day missed their chance to end life as we know it years ago. They could have kept the U.S. out of World War II, let Hitler and Hirohito have it all, and head toward the resulting, predicted ruin.

We had enough nuclear weapons to do the job, but we didn’t. It would have been quick, possibly a spectacular sight to aliens watching from a universe far away. Instead, we’ve opted for the slower annihilation of climate change–the fires, the hurricanes, the rising oceans, the diseases, the chaos. Where is the honor in that?

We’re all accomplices, though, aren’t we? We’ve accepted the notion that we were somehow different than the rest of the world’s flora and fauna and that “taming the land” was okay even if it meant destroying the land because we’re superior to mere rivers and forests, much less the problems of oceans with plastic and rivers with toxic waste..

The land is having its say, but we’re not listening. I’m surprised that the molecules that make up human beings haven’t fled the planet out of guilt and embarrassment to return to the dying stars whence they came. Many have spoken on the land’s behalf, individuals like Edward Abbey, John Muir, Wendell Berry, David Brower, Rachel Carson, and organizations like Audubon, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, National Parks and Conservation Association, Wilderness Society. Many like what they hear from these people, but then they go back to sleep.

I don’t have any answers. I can suggest that every time the current administration rolls back environmental protections that took decades to put in place, that we put a stop to it. I can suggest that when we hear of measures–getting rid of plastic, for example–that are good ways to combat climate change that we implement them in our lives rather than saying, “No worries, that’s just climate change BS.”

When it comes down to it, I suspect a lot of people have suggestions for things we can do thwart those who are intent on ending the world. Sure, most of those suggestions are inconvenient and cost money. But then, the impact of climate change is also costing money–for example, the lives and money lost due to the western wildfires along with the cost of fighting the fires.

Doomsday-clock-wise, we have 100 seconds left. So at the end of this rant, let me say that it’s time to shift our attention away from our celebrities and cell phones and cars and focus our concerns on saving the planet. Once we accomplish that, we can watch the next season of “Survivor” with the proven knowledge that the show is about us.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s latest novel is “Fate’s Arrows.” His novel “The Sun Singer” is free on Kindle through September 18th.

 

 

 

 

Florida Plants: Black Titi

Black titi (pronounced tie-tie), Cliftonia monophylla, sometimes called the Buckwheat Tree, is a perennial evergreen shrub/tree found in Florida’s wet flatwoods and bogs. Deer and bees like it a lot. Sometimes native plant nurseries can find it for your garden. The flowers are generally white and bloom in the spring.

I refer to it often in my Florida Folk Magic Series because it’s ubiquitous in the Florida Panhandle along with slash pines, longleaf pines, scrub oak, and saw palmetto. The word drives proofreaders crazy because they think it’s scandalously pronounced as titty.

Plant Distribution

In spite of this map, I see titi has more of a western Florida Panhandle plant with fewer occurrences in Peninsular part of the state.

I like the plant’s description in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s database: “Native from southeastern North America south through Central America and the West Indies to northeastern South America, this deciduous tree stays under 30 ft., and, though it looks shrubby for several years, eventually makes a slender tree with smooth, cinnamon-colored trunks; abundant, showy, whorled clusters of airy, white blooms; and dark-green leaves. In the northern part of its range, the leaves turn rust-red in fall, dropping in spring just as the new leaves unfurl. Farther south, plants are nearly evergreen. Summer fruits are yellow-brown.”

Malcolm

 

 

 

Pay it Forward, Give Back

Nice concepts. But, there are so many worthy causes not even counting family and friends. Hard to choose. And then, if you’re so inclined, there are political campaigns now on top of all the charities, funds, non-profits, and other organizations asking for cash.

Some say every dollar helps. So they ask for $25. That’s not too bad–unless you tally up how many requests for $25 you get every month. Sometimes I get multiple requests from the same place and feel like sending back a note that says, I’m not Jo Rowling, Bill Gates, James Patterson, or an oil baron from Saudi Arabia. How much do you think I have after paying the rent?

Some requests bother me, and those are the ones from everyday people like me who get behind on their mortgage payments (or whatever) and put up a crowdfunding link on Facebook and we’re all rather shamed into kicking in to help somebody we don’t know make ends meet. Yet, I read how they got into debt–because I’ve been there–and wish I could contribute.

I tend to contribute to environmental causes–the National Parks, a “Friends of” group for a specific park, the National Parks and Conservation Association, etc. Like many, I try to keep up with which general charities use an exorbitant amount of the money donated for administrative costs (and goodness knows what).

There’s so much to be done, doing it seems overwhelming. Personally, I don’t care for the size of the defense budget and think a lot of that money could be better used in other programs. All of us probably have our own pet peeves about “bad” uses of government funds that we think could be put to better use somewhere else. So, as a lover of National Parks, it ticks me off that Congress won’t appropriate enough money to keep them running, and this causes those of us who really can’t afford to do it to contribute to programs the government ought to be funding.

Whatever your favorite causes are, there’s always a chain of events that created the problem, e.g., people with high medical bills going bankrupt and needing help. Yes, we can and should speak out for change, but until that change occurs, we have a lot of pieces to pick up that aren’t being covered by the government, churches, charities, and “Friends of” organizations.

I felt rather discouraged when some financial organization or other said, in response to “tax the rich” campaigns, that even if the government took all of the rich’s money, it would be a drop in the bucket insofar as the deficit and/or funding needs are concerned. That makes my $25 contribution to Glacier National Park seem rather inconsequential. All I can hope is that my $25 along with a $25-dollar check for several thousand other people actually will help make things better whether we’re paying it forward or giving back.

Does anyone else wrestle with the amount of money needed vs. the amount anyone of us can contribute?

Malcolm

My novels “The Sun Singer,” “Mountain Song,” and “Sarabande” are te in Glacier National Park, so I try to support the park’s projects when I can.

Do you actively worry about the state of the world?

There are weeks, aren’t there, when all the news is bad, when new studies come out that tell us texting, climate change, and lack of personal eye contact with each other will be the ruination of everything. Maps are published that show how rising seas will eat away at coastlines, then states, then countries.

My grandparents thought radio and then TV and then Elvis were signs of a degraded populace. Every generation seems to point at some habit or phase of the next generation that spells doom. As we get older, we find out that not only our parents’ generation but our parents themselves were wilder when they were kids than they would acknowledge when we were growing up and pushing various envelopes.

The soothsayers seem to rejoice in proclaiming “The end is near.”

With gobal warming, I begin to wonder if the end is near. A lot of people are denying that it’s happening–in spite of the evidence. And that includes the current administration, one that is also rolling back clean air and water protections and other environmental rules. I remember when Jay Leno, on the old Tonight Show, used to interview people on the street about historical and other facts that my generation saw as baseline knowledge. More often than not, people didn’t even know the name of our President, where California is, and other basic facts.

Is our texting generation creating anew this aura of general stupidity about how the world works, where states and countries are, and whether or not rising seas constitute a real problem? I hate texting–so, I have a bias. But sidewalks filled with people who are looking at their cellphones is disturbing. What the hell can y’all possibly be talking about that’s more important than where you are and the people around you?

Do things like this worry you?

I’m beginning to wonder if I should start a new blog called “The end is near.”

Malcolm

We’re saying goodbye to the natural world

I think many poets, myself included, are struggling with how to keep writing in the face of the environmental degradation that is looming over us and our children, the beauties and seasons that will be lost, the diversity of flowers and trees and butterflies and fish. These are in danger of vanishing before the words for them do. Poetry is extremely hardy—it was around before the alphabet and will outlast many kinds of human technology. I am robustly optimistic about poetry, but that is maybe the only thing I am optimistic about.

I think a lot about Richard Wilbur’s “Advice to a Prophet”: “Whether there shall be lofty or long-standing / When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.” So much of our language is rooted in the old seasons, and in a miraculous natural world. It is terrifying to think that the language will outlast some of these. On the other hand, I suppose there will be new metaphors, and the poets of the future will find a way forward. – A. E. Stallings

Should writers be political? I think the answer is “yes,” though in many countries being political results in a death sentence or life imprisonment. Each of us does this in our own way. We don’t write in a vacuum. It’s hard to ignore the slings and arrows of fads, bad government, and horrible business decisions. However, many of our potential readers say they’re tired of logging on to Facebook and other services, much less the news sites, and seeing a continuous flow of bad news.

I’ve been an environmentalist for a long time, so Stalling’s words resonate with me. My response in my fiction has usually been to celebrate the natural world. Perhaps this is not enough. It appears that more people want to celebrate suburbia than the world as it was created. So, how do writers approach that point of view?

Many writers have focused on climate change. Yet readers seem to think such works are “over the top” and that climate change either isn’t happening, isn’t caused by humankind, or that the worst scenarios won’t play out for hundreds of years. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t say how soon the Earth’s environment will collapse. But we’ve been warned, I think. The least writers can do is celebrate the environment and have their fictional characters worry about global chaos.

The best we can do, perhaps, is allowing our characters the opportunity of expressing the kinds of fears we have. This way, we’re not beating our readers over the head with politics and activism. We’re telling stories in which folks have the same worries many of us have. I doubt that most people read stories that sound like a list of the political arguments of the day.  So, unless we have a seriously hardy theme, we need to be careful about how political we are.

Our readers want stories, not political tracts. Yet, we can inject our opinions if we are careful about how we do it.

Malcolm

Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

“Along Florida’s coasts, oysters play a vitally-important role in supporting healthy estuaries. Oyster reefs provide multiple benefits, from providing habitat and food for wildlife, to filtering water, removing nitrogen, and stabilizing eroding coastlines. Oysters are also a favorite cuisine for people and Florida once had robust oyster fisheries in many areas throughout the state.

“’Oysters are the quiet, unsung heroes of our estuaries, working hard every day to protect our coasts, clean our waters, feed and shelter fish, birds, crabs, shrimp and other wildlife,’” said Anne Birch, marine program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “When we help to restore and conserve oyster habitat and support the fishery we’re also helping our estuaries and our coastal communities flourish.”

Source: Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

Storms, reduced river water flows, and pollution are taking their toll on oysters, including those along the Florida Panhandle’s gulf coast where I grew up and where I’ve set many of my books. I’m happy to see that the Nature Conservancy chose to study and solve this problem–one that’s worldwide, actually.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Panhandle books include “Widely Scattered Ghosts” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Let’s ban Glacier’s helicopter tours

“For almost twenty years Glacier has been listening to visitors from all over the country, the world and residents of Montana complaining about the NOISE of helicopter sightseeing tours in the Park.  Its time for them to STOP.

“Glacier National Park has been steadfast in their commitment to discontinue overflights since studies in 1999 determined them to be inappropriate, having adverse impact on wildlife, visitors and all the natural sounds.  Helicopter noise pollution has no place in an International Peace Park and World Heritage site, abounding in wilderness, serenity, majesty and quiet.  Noise has no boundaries and cannot be contained.

“A quagmire of regulations  have prevented the protection of the peace and quiet Glacier was known for and for which millions every year travel to experience..  That’s the bad news.  What’s the good news? We can help Glacier Park get QUIET!”

Source: coalitioninformation

I’ve disliked these absurd helicopter overflights from the beginning. The National Park Service doesn’t want them. But so far, the FAA won’t ban them. Meanwhile, the tranquility of the place, the visitor experience, and the natural habitat is compromised by noise.

If you don’t like this either, click on the link above and sign the petition.

–Malcolm