Thursday, July 15, 2010

Diva of Doom

Finally I have found some time to upload pictures from a whirlwind tour of Seattle and a neighboring island, Vashon, last Wednesday and Thursday.
Upon arrival I found these marvelous scenes along the waterfront of huge cranes used to hoist the stacked shipping containers from China, a visceral reminder of our huge dependence upon and indebtedness to China.
I earned the title Diva of Doom the very first afternoon, when I managed to shatter any illusions held by fellow members of Romn'n'Legions, the two Richards, Pauli and Brenne, that the Pacific Northwest might be immune to the environmental degradation that is sweeping through other areas.
It wasn't very nice of me to dissect the arboreal residents of the beautiful Seattle Arboretum where we had a delicious picnic - but I couldn't help myself.
I really am very sorry to say that trees here on the west coast exhibit the same symptoms of chlorosis, bare branches, splitting bark, cankers, brown foliage, yellow needles, and limp leaves that have become so painfully familiar at home on the east coast.
It's actually quite astonishing that this should be so, since the east coast is the recipient of much more pollution from coal-fired plants - see the map of Air Quality Index forecast:
But of course there is plenty of vehicular transport and as I understand it, we have outsourced so much of our manufacturing to China that the resulitng pollution drifts across the Pacific and lands back in the USA. It's still all very mysterious and I am in the process of trying to figure out why the foliage here looks so damaged, the trees with thin transparent crowns, and only marginally less so than at home.
Either it isn't from exposure to atmospheric toxins after all...or something isn't being measured (or is being measured BUT not reported)...or else 1.5 degrees centrigrade average temperature increase (and concurrently greater evaporation and more sporadic precipitation) has been sufficient to push all the forests simultaneously over a tipping point from gradual decline to rapid, sudden, widespread death.
In the meanwhile, on Wednesday I had a jolly supper with famous doomer authors...yes that's me, pallin' around with other, Left Coast wannabe ecoterrorists...from Left to Right:
Jim Galasyn, the Enfant Terrible (at least to us elders) behind DesdemonaDespair; Martha Baskin, local public radio show host, Moi, Richard Pauli, Mike Roddy, and Richard Brenne. Together we are plotting how to save the world from ecocide - or at least survive it - or failing that, enjoy the denouement.
I still don't have time to write anything coherent about all the fascinating discussions that ensued about climate change, and what to do about it - but following (in no particular order) are pictures from the Arboretum and Discovery Park, a former military base, that we hiked through on Thursday.

The thimbleberries were in flower.
Deciduous trees - mostly maple, some willow, oak, poplar and alders - had uniformly thin crowns, with bare branches.
Leaves in the understory shrubs are yellowing.
The sycamore below is within the city limits and quite dead.
This sycamore in a meadow above Puget's Sound looked relatively healthy,
but upon close inspection the leaves are stunted,
speckled with brown, and shriveling up.

Anytime you look up into the canopy of a wood, bare crowns are visible.
The coniferous trees, which far outnumber the deciduous, are losing needles that are turning brown.

When hiking, every turn reveals more dying trees.
Undeterred by the bleak prognosis, Richard Brenne forges on with irrepressible good spirits.
The poplars planted as windbreaks all around the city have about half as many leaves as they should.
The conifer is brown.
It is more common than not for shrubs to have bare branches, not a promising trend.
The landscape is marred by dead specimens.
Oregon grape are ripe for picking - but very tart.
The leaves of berries are turning improbably bright colors.
Military housing dates from WWII, and is charming, with views of the water far below the cliffs.
I was assured this tree would be dwarfed by those further north but to me it seemed extraordinary so I insisted on a picture.
The leaves were in no better condition than those back in New Jersey.
Mountains in the distance are still capped with snow.
Madrona is an evergreen losing all its lower leaves.
They flutter to the ground as you watch.

Everywhere are felled trees in stacks.
These had rotted centers.
There is so much lichen everywhere. To a certain extent this is part of a foggy environment.
But just as at home, the rampant spread is closely associated with bare branches.
The hydrangea is very pretty but leaves look burnt.
The trunks climb impossibly high.
Another enormous, glorious tree. When I get home everything will look pathetically small.
There are fabulous fungi to be found.
And delicate flowers everywhere.

This is an electric car I think would be really fun to drive!

I saw it on the ferry on the way to Vashon Island for dinner at Mike's.
The line of trees along the beach, on the lower right, are plainly too thin.
Leaves of all sorts are scorched.
Shrubs in the meadows are losing leaves, and they are turning odd colors.
Of course that meant I could get a good view of this bird,
a Cedar Waxwing.
Many trees have broken tops.
The Arboretum had a pleasant flower garden.
There were astilbe and hydrangea in bloom.
But the berginia leaves exhibit classic symptoms of damaged stomata and an inability to produce chlorophyll.
I am lucky to be missing more brutal heat at home, and health alerts for dangerously high levels of ozone.
A clematis climbed up the arbor at the Arboretum headquarters,
sadly, the flowers were abnormally wrinkled and thin. Maple leaves in particular were singed. This type of "big-leaf" maple, acer macrophyllum, is unique to this region.
But hey...Mike Roddy CAN cook! Stir-fry baby scallops, red peppers, bok choy and fresh pasta!
I have over 700 more pictures to wade through and post, from a spectacular trip over the weekend to Port Townsend and the Hoh Forest...exploring, as RPauli is wont to say, the delicate interplay of light and shadow.

Just kidding.


  1. Great photo essay! It was wonderful to have you on our coast -- hope you make it back soon.

    Also, "Enfant Terrible" -- I like it!

  2. Yes, the child that tells the grown-ups things they don't want to hear!

  3. Hah, Italy protesters rally against Berlusconi


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