Top photo: bottom center shows moon creating sun crescent.
Next photo shows lens flare opticalfall.
Remaining photos shows endless iterations of crescent sun as filtered through branches of Pinus edulis trees.
Photos copyright David L. Witt
“echoes” exhibition opens at the Seton Gallery of the Academy for the Love of Learning with a (free) reception on Sunday August 13 at 2:00 pm. The show features images of 1932 paintings by “Kiowa Five” artist Jack Hokeah used to decorate a historic building at Seton Village. The Academy is located 20 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, on Seton Village Road, accessed via the Old Las Vegas Highway.
Ernest Thompson Seton commissioned a series of 12 large murals plus many smaller ones from the highly regarded Native American painter Jack Hokeah. Time and rugged weather has destroyed much of Hokeah’s work. This exhibition documents Hokeah’s extraordinary talent through photographs of his paintings in their original and current (quickly disappearing) form.
Included in the afternoon programming will be a performance by Dancing EarthTM Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations.
It’s beginning to look a lot less like Christmas up north. Mid-month December temperatures at the North Pole have risen 50° F above average to just below freezing—nighttime temperatures in Taos are colder. During summer, parts of the Arctic are warmer than Taos.
Time to start panicking?
Meanwhile: Hysteria reigns in North Carolina over who gets to use which bathroom. “Liberal” media (MSNBC, Huff Post, etc.) continue giving Trump more of the free publicity they used to propel him into the White House. The Obama administration slams Russia for providing armaments to Syria used to kill civilians there while at the same time providing armaments to Saudi Arabia used to kill civilians in Yemen. Democrats blame (among others) the Russians for costing them the election—easier to blame foreigners than there own stupidity (e.g., they really should have won).
From the Radical Natural History perspective, it is clear that negative media about Trump misses an important point. He is not a cause of our problems, but a symptom. Think of him as nasal congestion, an outcome of the corruption of the common cold, not the cause. It is the deeper virus-like corruption of a world civilization—that can tolerate, ignore, or even benefit from (in the very short term) the cataclysm of rising temperatures and species extinction—which has not the slightest compunction about producing Trump and his illiberal companions.
Time to start panicking, or past the time when we should have done so?
The outcome of the December 19, 2016 election is another disaster for environmentalists. Beginning in November, environmental advocacy organizations have made their usual response: a plea for more money.
The appeal for funds has become an end in and of itself rather than a means to an end. Environmental organizations will raise more money in reaction to the complete take-over of government by a single political party, but species extinction and climate heating will continue as before on an ever accelerating path.
As long as fund raising remains the goal, radical naturalists and well-meaning environmentalists alike will continue to lose wild-nature one piece at a time until it is gone.
We should instead see fund raising only as a means, and direct action (with results) as an end.
Here are a few things we can do now:
- Admit that as goes the occupation regime in Washington, D.C., so goes the environment (nothing but disaster ahead without our concentrated opposition).
- Reject the prevailing trend that partisanship must trump patriotism.
- Accept that acting to save our environment from destruction and the agents that intend to bring that destruction about, is an act of urgent patriotism.
- Agree that doing violence in doing so is not answer (we don’t want to become like them)
- Pay attention to the “unpresidented” intervention by a foreign government in choosing the current leadership in Washington. React in the following way:
- Call the election result what it is—illegitimate. Become an election denier, a Dearther (for the dearth of information provided by intelligence agencies and others that might have changed the election result).
- Shame Democratic politicians into not attending the inaugural on January 20 (nothing else will get their attention). If they attend, they will validate the fraudulent election result.
- Demand the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate, without restrictions, the actions of a foreign government in influencing the election.
- Demand the appointment of a second Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the actions of the FBI over its political intervention in the election.
- Demand an immediate disclosure of all tax and business records by the new elected and appointed officials regarding their financial ties to foreign governments.
- Stop referring to fascist (euphemism: “alt-right”) propaganda as “fake news.” The word to use instead: lies.
While raising money to support specific environmental causes is necessary, emphasizing money is not the answer—in that direction lays despair and hopelessness. Our opponents will always raise more.
Our usual defensive/reactive posture must be replaced by its opposite. We must fight to save nature (or itself and for our own self-interest) and create awareness that what we do in the world, destruction or preservation, is the very definition of morality.
Writing on the Wall photo by David L. Witt
Liberals and conservatives have failed to adequately address the climate change crisis. Neither political party gave significant attention to any environment issues during the 2016 elections. Politicians left and right are unable even to ask meaningful questions regarding the environment because the frame of reference of these philosophies is not set up to do so.
In his 2014 book, The Great Debate, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, And The Birth of Right and Left, the political scholar Yuval Levin chronicles the late 18th century origins of conservatism (Burke) and Liberalism (Paine).
Burke believed that rejecting the traditions and practices of the past leads to disaster. He feared that the passions of the moment overwhelm reason, and that instead, keeping to what works contributes to overall societal happiness. We retain inherited political and social institutions for good reason—the maintenance of order. Social relations are and must be restrained by the legacy of past generations and by our obligations to future generations. These traditions mostly obviate the need for social engineering by government regulation.
Paine believed that not rejecting those traditions and long standing practices leads to disaster. Discarding the dead hand of the past and adapting to changing conditions creates justice in the contemporary world contributing to overall happiness. He trusted citizens to employ “reason” in their consideration of political matters. Social and power relations should change with each generation, through revolution if necessary, and that the present should be of greater importance than the past or the future. Reason, rather than tradition, should be our guide.
Paine favored individual choice. Burke supported the obligations and privileges to which we are born. Both views have negative implications for contemporary environmentalism.
Conservatives see no reason to intervene in ancient environmental systems since those have and will continue to manage—and even evolve—on their own. Applying “reason” (including science) to address environmental issues unnecessarily grants authority to radicals who are more than willing to tear down the existing order for obscure (to the conservatives) revolutionary objectives. We have built a great nation on certain shared values (such as property rights, capitalism). Leave well enough alone.
Don’t expect liberals to come to our rescue. According to Paine, the motives of authorities (representing the long existing establishment, including scientists) are suspect; they are not to be trusted. Personal experience and immediate needs (such as alleviation of poverty, prevention of war) are of greatest concern. The people of the future can (and should) address the problems of their own time. Meanwhile, we must look out for ourselves.
As a result, neither conservatives nor liberals have much to offer environmentalism. Conservatives fear that environmental action will trample the rights of individuals well vested in the current system. Liberals fear that environmental action could compromise their goal of a more just and equitable society.
If conservatives admit the reality of climate change, then they have to admit that the issue can only be addressed though collective action organized by multinational governmental agencies. If liberals admit that climate change is real, then they have to adjust to societal sacrifices, knowing that the less well off and less powerful will give up more than the rich and powerful in addressing the problem.
Their differing worldviews make conservatives and liberals unable to understand one another on almost any issue. At the same time, but for entirely different reasons, their preconceptions make them equally unable to take revolutionary action that would disrupt our world society today for a payoff (in environmental and climate terms) that cannot be achieved until far into the future.
“The Great Chasm” Photo: David L. Witt
Secretary Clinton is only 42 votes shy of winning the Electoral College, the second phase of the Presidential election which takes place in each state on December 19. Another way to put this is that she already has 228 votes lined up. If 42 Republican electors were to put country ahead of political party and change their vote to Clinton (who won the popular vote) we could, perhaps, achieve a more hopeful future. Somebody get this idea to Michael Moore!
The College was designed for just this purpose. Alexander Hamilton explained in an essay in The Federalist Papers that the College was the one chance to keep the Presidency from going to an unqualified person.
There is little time to left to save what remains of wild-nature–as well as ourselves–the extraordinary measure I propose could be our one remaining chance.
In the past eleven months we have seen the Paris Agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Antarctic Protection Agreement (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) while at the same time the variety of environmental disasters from species extermination to melting ice caps has continued apace. American anti-environmental politics in this election cycle has deteriorated from absurd to farcical (or vice versa). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (dis)Service continues to keep species such as the American Pica from receiving Endangered Species Act Protection. Given all this, months ago I quit making editorial comments. What is the radical natural history writer to do?
Give up on politics at the moment for a return into the heart of wild nature.
In September, I took a break from my primary research on Ernest Thompson Seton to assist in research on John Muir. For decades fellow radical naturalist Bob Hare has been inspired by Muir’s accounts of the Sierra Nevada, and for several years has been systematically following Muir’s routes through the Range of Light. See: Wilderness Adventures with Bob Hare.
I occasionally join him in the adventure, including this year for a few September days exploring the Ansel Adams Wilderness (west of Mammoth Lakes, California). One of our destinations this year: Lake Catherine, a jewel of a lake, outstanding even by the standards of a region known for its outstandingly gorgeous lakes.
Venturing from Taos, New Mexico, to Sacramento, California, thence across Yosemite and southward to Mammoth Lakes, we packed supplies and gear for a six- night trip.
Sept 28. From Minaret Vista (near Devil’s Postpile National Monument) we looked out over the San Jauquin watershed to Mt Ritter and Banner Peak (the high points right of center) the stone pillars below which Lake Catherine glistens in the sunshine or glowers beneath storm clouded sky (although first we had to get there).
We are both photographers so stopped frequently to pose in front of trees, on trails, etc.
We took so long to reach Thousand Island Lake (Banner Peak and Mt. Davis in the distance above the lake) that I thought we had taken a wrong turn. Our path-finding skills have not diminished, but more than forty years on from our first backpacking trips together, either we walk more slowly or the upward tilt of the trails has increased.
Finally made camp as the wind gradually increased—a harbinger of what was to come.
Sept 29. Morning sunrise photography occupied us for some time.
That morning we headed north and uphill intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail for a hike over Island Pass and to the overlook of Waugh Lake in search of places from where Muir made sketches. Late afternoon we returned through an unrelenting windstorm that did not cease for the remainder of our trip.
Sept. 30 From our camp at Thousand Island Lake we hiked up North Glacier Pass on the north side of Banner to where it became a Class 2 climb—talus mixed with large boulders.
After nearly having been blown off the rocks several times we reached the top of the pass and the unforgettable view of Lake Catherine. (I wonder for whom the lake was named?)
Bob continued down to the lake and beyond in search of another Muir sketch site (detailed in his blog). At 1:00pm, he promised to return in 2 ½ hours. I retreated over a hundred feet back down in the pass to get out of the worst wind, covering myself with a poncho as wind shelter. He appeared above me at exactly 3:30pm.
Oct. 1. We still had half the planned trip remaining, but high elevation snow and non-stop wind changed our plan. We headed down to Garnet Lake.
From Garnet Lake, we climbed down through a hundred feet of rock gully back into the San Jauquin valley finding a long abandoned (and occasionally entirely absent) trail for our return. Our research continued for a few more days—a story for another time.
Adoption of the Paris Agreement
December 12, 2015
In combating climate change, the Agreement emphasizes “should” rather than “must,” which is to say that it is voluntary. It calls for recognition of social justice, for sharing technology, and for wealthier countries to support appropriate development in less wealthy countries. Environmentalists (including me) will fault the agreement for not being stronger. At the same time, however, it does establish an international moral imperative to combat this grave danger that threatens us all.
Will it be enough to save remaining wild nature and the larger part of world civilization? Implementation of the agreement is likely to be slower than needed. But how could 190 countries have come up with a better plan? Short term interests of corporations and the politicians they buy is as strong as ever.
Still, maybe, perhaps, if we’re lucky, maybe the United States of America will take the lead as its used to do in the 20th century when faced with global challenges.
Here are some highlights. For the full document, go to:
This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:
(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; (c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage.
<Will it be sunset, sunrise, or something in between? Aylmer Lake sundog, Summer 2015. dlw photo)