I have been told that my blog is too negative and depressing. Duh! It's about dead trees, mostly!
But I guess it bears repeating that I do think there is a possibility of at least short-term salvation, although I don't mention it every time I post, because I can't prove it. Nevertheless, hope is a principal reason that I started this blog, where I document the decline of trees, and compile links to research.
A number of commenters at the Coffee Party feel that climate change is too controversial a topic to include on their platform, and rather than scare people with apocalyptic predictions, it is a better strategy to win people over with notions of a cleaner environment, of not being dependent of foreign sources of oil for reasons of national security, and the prospect of job creation in the clean energy sector.
This is nonsense. You can't solve a problem if you don't recognize the problem is there in the first place. It's like getting an obese person to lose weight by simply offering them fresh vegetables and fruit along with their Big Mac, fries and chocolate shake. Good luck with that approach. Cheap coal power will never be replaced by clean energy unless the real costs - of environmental degradation from mountain top removal, health costs from ozone, and mitigating from all the disasters from climate change - are factored in, by government regulation I might add. Car manufacturers fought seat belts tooth and nail because of the cost, but I guess you have to be my age to remember that.
Here is why I have a faint glimmer of hope for the trees: there is no question that ozone damages vegetation, but ozone has been a component in the atmosphere for decades and at times and places in the past, worse than it is now. Trees have no doubt been damaged for a long time, but the last two years or so, the rate at which they are dying has accelerated dramatically, and furthermore, there are a number of strange and unprecedented symptoms of toxic poisoning - numerous lichens and fungi in a rainbow of colors, bleeding sap, splitting bark, rapid decay, and a proliferation of cankers. Thus, I infer that something relatively recent has changed the composition of the atmosphere to produce these phenomena, and the question is, what exactly?
I don't have a laboratory and I'm not a trained scientist, so all I can do is point out the empirical situation to those who do have the capability to investigate - and hopefully, figure out whether it is ethanol or mercury or nitrogen or cell phone radiation or nanotechnology (there's a new one!) - so we can stop doing whatever it is we are doing in time for the forests to recover.
Of course that won't solve climate change, which is a much broader problem, with amplifying feedbacks already primed, and the attendant consequences of things such as desertification, extreme weather, famine, and climate refugees already begun, with much more - and worse - looming fast. But there is still time to adapt, at least for some people in some places, and for technology to develop, for instance, cheap solar power and zippy, convenient electric cars.
There now, isn't that more positive? Okay, back to dead trees!
The boxwood look terrible, and have that peculiar layering of damage, where the outer leaves are burnt more than the inner leaves, which can be seen when the weight of the snow has pulled the branches down.
Around about this time I was approached by the fellow who was perhaps the manager of the car wash who asked me what I was doing. I told him I was waiting for my car.
He was disappointed. "Oh," he said, "I saw you taking pictures and I was hoping it was because somebody was finally going to take all these dead trees down." He surveyed them with disgust. "I guess I'll have to get a chain saw and do it myself."
After I left with a bright shiny vehicle, I stopped at random places and got a hodge-podge of the sort of effects that were once highly unusual but are becoming more and more commonplace. The splitting of bark is one of the most recent and alarming. I don't know if the crusty white is dried sap from oozing out of the cracks or a fungal growth or mineral or perhaps as some believe, chemical deposits.
Another very recent development are these prominent streaks originating from holes, or broken branches.
This magnolia is a spectacular example. It looks like a burn victim, from napalm, or from the white phosphorus the Israelies dropped on Gaza.
It is so odd that I keep thinking maybe somebody painted it, but I can't think of why anyone would, since dressing pruned branches has not been recommended for years.
Quite a bit of the seeping originates from woodpecker holes, which tells you the tree has an insect problem.
Here's a good example of the lichen gone rampant. Just two years ago, that lichen only appeared in very limited places, in small discs. I never saw a tree blanketed like this one is, along with many others, until this year.
And it gets quite tedious to be told that the lichen is harmless. Maybe that was true once upon a time. But this is a new era, something has changed, and that lichen is closely associated with bark falling off trees, as you can plainly see.
There is more area covered by lichen than not. And that, my friends, means this tree's growing days are over.
Naturally if you look closely enough, you can always find the lichen lurking.
These trees are along the Raritan River.
These trees are along the Raritan River.
I've almost come to like the patterns of the lichen, click the photo for an enlargement and you can see that even though scenery appears drab, the lichen adds some vivid color.
There is so much empty dirt, in the woods and on lawns, I am very curious to see what happens when spring arrives.
Of course, these silly daffodils, which started growing in January, think spring already arrived long ago.