Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance in Costa Rica

I just got home from Costa Rica. I can't say why I can't say why I went. Never mind. I was there for a week and spent almost every minute trapped at an overrated resort that resembled any random, boring, ordinary American condo development - only with palm trees. Sickly palm trees.
While I was there I finally finished reading Clive Hamilton's "Requiem for A Species" - and I AM going to give away the ending! I'm also going to insert some particularly insightful passages into this post, here and there among the pictures I took while in Costa Rica.
The resort was a disappointment, however the beach was huge and stunning, with hardly any people especially early in the day.
There was some sand but much of it consisted of pieces of shells, worn smooth from the action of the waves.
I wasn't really prepared to find that trees in remote northwestern Costa Rica have anything approaching the damage I have seen on the heavily industrialized East Coast of the US,
but there is no way to describe the trees along the edge of the sand as anything but desiccated.
Clive Hamilton brings up the issue that it IS already too late to avoid major climate disruption and instead focuses unflinchingly on how to learn, adjust, adapt, and survive.
p. 118

"...the most immediate reason we now face climate disruption lies in the political power of the fossil fuel lobby, which has set out to sow doubt in the public mind..."
"As much as anything else, the objective of industrial society has been to isolate ourselves from the effects of the weather. Against the dream of the scientific-technological revolution, global warming reminds us that Nature is untamable and fractious. The return of chaos is a particular challenge to those who fear uncertainty and believe the environment can be controlled by application of rationality."

p. 137, a quote from Plato, in the 4th C. BC

"Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence...a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related."
This is going to be a really long post -I have a week's worth of photographs, and myriad, jumbled, rather incoherent thoughts.
I found many branches are bare - and leaves have chlorosis.
There was not a single specimen of any botanical species that I saw, the entire time I was there, that didn't have evidence of stomatal damage.
There was an astonishing percentage of bare earth.
This sort of sunburn scorching looks identical to what I have seen at home.
Tree decline marked by bare branches is irreversible and incurable no matter what hemisphere it inhabits.

From the beach there are many views of hillsides surrounding the bay.
Looking in any direction, the slopes have huge spaces devoid of any plantlife, and many dead trees are scattered through the wooded areas. Click on the photos and mouse around, you can see them!

p. 144, Hamilton quotes Max Weber:

"The development of the ethos of modern capitalism first had to overcome these obstacles and it was the Protestant ethic that brought to capitalism 'the change in moral standards which converted a natural frailty [acquisitiveness] into an ornament of the spirit, and canonized as the economic virtues habits which in earlier ages had been denounced as vices'. Calvinists and Puritans believed God had given man dominion over the Earth and it was his duty now to exploit it."

Kind of like Sarah Palin!

p. 146

"Humanity is now forced to confront the question of whether a consciousness rooted in a dead Earth subjugated to our material needs can respond adequately to the climate crisis, or whether we need to rediscover some form of consciousness that recognizes a living Earth yet remains scientifically credible. Clearly a return to pre-scientific animism is out of the question; we know too much."

From Chapter 7, "The four-degree world" p. 191 about a conference at Oxford in 2009 titled "4 degrees and beyond: Implications of a global change of 4+ degrees for people, ecosystems and the earth-system" which provoked this reaction:
"So dilatory has been the response to the scientific warnings, they believe, that the only choice we now have is between 'extreme' rates of emissions reduction and 'extreme' impacts of a hot world".
He expounds further on p. 192, paraphrasing speaker Mark Lynas, author of "Six Degrees":

"Summing up the view of leading climate scientists, Lynas described the official target of two degrees above the preindustrial average as optimistic vering on unattainable. Now, expecting three to four degrees is regarded as realistic, five to six degrees pessimistic, and seven to eight degrees alarmrist. One of the obstacles we must confront is that most people, including policy makers, thing of three degrees as a bit worse than two degrees and four degrees as a bit worse than three degrees. This thinking reflects a 'false linearity', said Lynas, because the difference is enormous. A planet four degrees warmer would be hotter than at any time since the Miocene era some 25 million years ago. The world was virtually ice-free then."
On the far side of a steep bluff of volcanic rock, this villa presides over a canopy of bare branches.
Every morning, first thing, armies of workers descended to clean up the leaves and branches that had fallen in the previous 24 hours. The very first morning I found a branch had fallen outside my door. At the crack of dawn a machete-wielding man was hacking it up.

The landscapers drag around large plastic bags to gather the detritus that has accumulated overnight.
It is a never-ending Sisyphean task to remove the dead leaves, twigs, and broken branches.
On the highway leading to and from the airport, every house had a pile or two of plant material in front along the roadside, many of them burning. There's just too much stuff accumulating and nowhere and no money to dispose of it. I feel so sorry for those people in those little tin shacks, without trees to add charm and shade, they are going to become unbearably hot ovens in the sun in a heating climate.
The gardeners do their best to "hide the decline" but evidence abounds.
This was the view, of a stump, from my porch.
They haven't gotten around to removing these trunks of what must have been once a formidable tree, because it's in an area guests would have no reason to traverse.
I cannot explain why they haven't removed this hulk, which is in front of a prominent reception area, other than that it is a huge task.
Even at the 2300-acre resort I was marooned on, where the plants are laden with fungicides, pesticides and fertilizer, they are fighting a losing battle. Exposure to ozone leaves vegetation more vulnerable to insects, disease and fungus.
I could see evidence on the leaves of chemical treatments, and the fact that mosquitos on the resort are about the size of an ant, but 2 hours away they are as big as a dime, tells me insecticide use is ongoing and intensive.
You know gas is too cheap when even in an impoverished country, where the resort employees typically work 15 hour days for the lordly sum of $10, they drive everywhere in golf carts, on ATV's and motorcycles...and the obnoxious racket of weedwhackers and gas-powered blowers sound like angry hordes of hornets starting at sunrise.
Of course the tourists love to rent out jet skis and other noxious water toys.
But back to the resort, where I found some beautiful flowers, but mostly trees and shrubs on the verge of succumbing to complete destruction. I am not sure who in their right mind would knowingly pay top dollar to stay at a place where you have to wear a plastic wrist band to qualify for the unlimited food and drink - like a college beer fest - nor feel that blue sequined plastic fish and glittery fake coral in the plantings is somehow elegant or sophisticated.
Just guessing, but from the tatooed, flabby bellies, flaccid muscles, cigarettes dangling from idle fingers, wide-banded flip flops slapping from buffet to bar to lounge chair, I got the distinct impression this "family" escape attracts a lot of honky, blubbery, slouching, slovenly, fundy, good-ole-boy Southerners (only 2 hours from Houston!) who probably adore Sarah Palin. How can they ignore the cause for the decapitated trees in the foreground?
I suspect that even as they exert every effort to convince themselves that life as we have known it in the last 60 years or so of unremitting self-indulgence is going to carry forward without impediment into the future, some nagging suspicion impels them to scurry around like frantic ants, swarming out when their nest is stirred up, deranged and not knowing what has happened to destroy the structure of their abode...they are clueless.
Clive Hamilton describes this as "cognitive dissonance" (p.96) a theory developed by Leon Festinger while he was studying a fringe cult, a term "which describes the uncomfortable feeling we have when we begin to understand that something we believe to be true is contradicted by evidence."

"Festinger hypothesized that those whose firmly held views are repudiated by the emergence of facts often begin to proselytize even more fervently after the facts become incontrovertible."

This is a perfect description of climate deniers, and ignorers - those Americans who, Clive observes, are locked by their ideology into being incapable of acknowledging limits, liability, or any rein on their power as individuals to do whatever they want, and push the consequences to another location or the future.
This explains why, even though the logical, prudent thing would be to reserve burning fuel for only the most essential of tasks that cannot possibly be replaced (yet) with clean energy, still so many people, especially Americans purposefully, willfully, stubbornly squander gasoline and electricity on stupid, wasteful, noisy, unnecessary "pleasures".
And so for the better part of my stay I simply recorded sample after sample of serious decline.
Skimpy crowns and splitting, peeling bark,
just like I have become so familiar with in the US.
These hedges should be lush and dense.
Instead all over the complex, the inner branches are prominent, and the leaves that remain are small and brown.
The newest leaves don't have the bright colors they should, nor do they curl.
Here is the National Flower, a type of orchid called Guaria Morada (Cattleya skinneri) of which the Costa Ricans are inordinately proud.
The foundation plantings are disappearing and the gardeners can't replace them fast enough.
This looks very much like the mourning dove in New Jersey.

I was too busy to learn what most of the trees are, but I don't need to know their nomenclature nor have seen them before to know that in the not-so-distant past they had many more leaves than they have now.
This tree resembles some sort of locust.
All its leaves have chlorosis.
This is a potted plant in a pool with a fountain.
A closer look at the leaves reveals classic shriveling from ozone exposure.
It is interesting how the foliage of different species reacts. Some have spots, others streaks, depending on their cellular structure. Leaves that should be green turn yellow, or become bronzed. Leaves that should be variegated revert to plain. Leaves that should be purple, or red, or multi-colored, emerge green. Curled leaves are flat, and smooth leaves become ruffled and twisted.

These colorful shrubs are in extremely bad shape.
They are meant to form a visual barricade to conceal the ugly functional equipment they surround - but they are barely limping along.
The leaves are wrinkled, singed, and lack their bright red mottling.
The prominent veins are typical of leaves damaged by ozone.
This poolside tree and all others of its type are going to die completely very soon.
The leaves are markedly yellow.
The raven black birds were everywhere, and have a piercing call.
Lichens are spreading fast here as they are at home, a possible indication of nitrogen over-abundence.
This degree of chlorophyll loss is average now for these large, fleshy leaves that should be glossy, dark green.
The fellow who stocks the minibars came by one afternoon, with a bird sitting on the steering wheel of his cart!
I asked him what it was called and he couldn't think of a translation into English so he finally said, he's called, "My Friend!"

Clive Hamilton, on p. 209:

"In the twenty-first century, climate disruption will increasingly push all utopian visions and ideological disputes into the background. Abandoning the pursuit of utopias, including the last great utopian vision of endless growth, our task will be to avoid a dystopia."

This goes back to the tension between hope and despair, nihilism and triumph of spirit for its own sake, something that concerns me greatly as I wonder how my children will navigate the bitter and inevitable, unavoidable confrontation with the consequences of climate change:

p. 211

"In the face of the evidence of climate disruption, clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short, to grieve. Climate disruption will require that we change not only how we live but how we conceive of our selves; to recognize and confront a gap between our inner lives - including our habits and suppositions about how the world will evolve - and the sharply divergent reality that climate science now presents to us. The process of bringing our inner experience into conformity with the new external reality will for many be a long and painful emotional journey."

p. 218, a quote from T.S. Eliot:

"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope of the wrong thing."

Then he adds:

"Waiting...does not mean we should be passive....At present, the early mourners feel lonely and isolated..."
I guess I must be an "early mourner."

p. 215

"Climate disruption has the smell of death about it. It threatens to bring to the surface that which we work so hard to suppress...The desire for immortality is perhaps the best answer to the riddle of why the affluent are driven to accumulate more."

p. 222

"It is well known, however, that one of the most effective responses to depression is to act. Helplessness is immiserising, and we should not capitulate to it even when things appear irredeemable. As Pablo Casals is reputed to have said: 'The situation is hopeless; we must now take the next step.'..."

As promised I will end the suspense - what is at the end of this treatise on doom and despair? What remedy can there be, what response can be made to total calamity?

Civil disobedience! as the moral response. Why should we recognize and respect laws that are unjust, that violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that elevate the privileges of corporations over individual persons and rich people over poor...just because the ruling elite has a strangle hold on the Congress, the media, civil servants, and agencies like the CIA?

His parting words p. 226:

"With runaway climate change now jeopardizing the stable, prosperous and civilized community that our laws are designed to protect, the time has come for us to ask whether our obligations to our fellow humans and the wider natural world entitle us to break laws that protect those who continue to pollute the atmosphere in a way that threatens our survival."
So there you have it.
The book is still a must read,
even though this is sort of a Cliff's notes of The End of the World as We Know It, According to Clive Hamilton.

I hope I haven't misrepresented his intentions.
"Despair, accept, act. These are the three stages we must pass through...Only by acting, and acting ethically, can we redeem our humanity."

I now intend to read: "Climate Code Red" by David Spratt and Philip Sutton, and "Climate Wars" by Gwynne Dyer.
There really is a magnificent series of connected pools at the resort...
all maintained and functioning from extreme use of energy for pumps, filters, and so forth.

RPauli sent this link my way, an essay - "Checkmate" - from Club Orlov, where he raises issues defined by the concept of Shifting Baselines:
"Emergencies come and go, and people get used to the fact that the beaches are black and sometimes catch fire and burn for weeks, or that there is a ravine running through the center of town where the riverfront used to be, or that electricity is only on for a couple of hours a day. Dogs and children turn feral, but nobody remembers when that started happening, so everyone assumes that that's the way it's always been...The population can dwindle quite rapidly, but this too is often imperceptible. Large swaths of the landscape become depopulated, but that is not noticed by anyone because nobody goes there any more."
Perhaps that's the way it will be for most of us - except us early mourners - the ecosystem will become progressively more degraded, our lives will be diminished but so incremental as to be imperceptible, or, it will be blamed on something other than our own hubris. I especially liked a comment which I will reproduce:

teetering said...

"Wu Wei, or Not Doing, is a key concept in both Taoism and Buddhism. It's not easy to understand, since it kind of assumes understanding what it means when the term is used. One could, I guess, also see it as a sort of Koan. I don't, but one could if that helps. Ie, only when you come to comprehend non-intellectually what underlies wu-wei will you understand the term.
In the West it's generally described as doing without intention, acting without acting (with self centered ideas, that is). I'm not a huge fan of how this stuff has been translated, but you have to start somewhere.
What it definitely is NOT, is literally doing nothing, quietism that is. In other words, do nothing does not mean do nothing, although it's pardonable to mistakenly believe it does.
Language has problems when it hits these points, and people who need things to be literal are going to be out of luck.
However, with this said, I completely agree with, and share, Kollapsnik's conclusion, doing nothing is certainly going to be the way out of this particular mess.
Sports guys, by the way, refer to this state as being 'in the one', that's where all actions are perfect, and fit into the flow of all other actions surrounding one, and do not require previous thinking to carry them out. So flow is a good metaphor for doing nothing. A logical conclusion, by the way, given that we are facing an unprecedented re-alignment and correction, a deflating bubble, where unpredictability continues to be the only thing you can count on.
Over the coming years, the truth of Colin Campbell's observation that one key component of peak oil would be extreme volatility in the planets financial (and other_) systems will become more and more apparent. As will, I believe, the idea that such events can actually be planned for. One of my exes had a wonderful little saying: how do you make God laugh? Make a plan.
Ie, do something with an intention of achieving a certain outcome."
This mango tree is covered in small, hard, green fruit - and leaves turning brown.
I have no idea who the author of that comment is, but he is surely a thoughtful person.
The trunks of palms are scary. I touched one gently, and a chunk of the exterior broke off instantly.
There are fissures and holes that reveal rotted cores. The trees are standing on a prayer.
RPauli also sent me this link, an essay by Ross Gelbspan, "US Press Coverage of the Climate Crisis: The Heat is Online: A Damning Failure of Courage" published on the Heat Is
Here are some excerpts from his very interesting analysis of the history and motivations behind the massive abdication of the media:

"The U.S. press today is in what I call “stage-two” denial of the climate crisis. They acknowledge its existence – and they minimize its scope and urgency. You can see this from the pattern of coverage that provides occasional feature stories about the decimation of the forests in Alaska – but which continues to ignore the fact that scientists have been blindsided by the unexpected speed with which the climate is changing – and the expanding dimensions of the havoc it could cause."
"So if there is a message in all this, I think it should be: this problem is real. It threatens the survival of our civilization. Moreover, by many very credible scientific accounts, we are already well past a point of no return in staving off major climate disruptions."
"How we respond, I think, will determine whether, in the face of these disruptions, we become a more cooperative global community or a more polarized, fortressed, degraded and war-like society. To me, that’s the central question before us. But, again, that is not a debate you’ll likely find in the mainstream press."

Here is another sort of colorful tropical shrub, that is experiencing severe damage to the edges of leaves, which also lack the deep, rich colors they should have.
There are many trees that are related to mimosa.
At home they are spindly but here they become enormous.
But they are out of synch - these are last year's seed pods, still hanging on.
There are many of these locust-related trees planted on the resort.
They all have trunks that have clear signs of unhealthy surface breakage, and seeping sap.

Their leaves are turning brown and falling off.
They are in bloom at the moment.
It is leaves not blossoms littering the ground.
It is simply heartbreaking to see what was no doubt fairly recently a verdant Eden become a ghost, reminiscent of its former paradise.
The birds of paradise flowers seem small - and certainly, the leaves are injured.
They should be a solid, even green.

Their malfunctioning abilities are matched in every sort of plant.
Feral cats roam the premises, they are quite amusing, and fight vigorously and with loud yowls!

And there are many iguanas.

Two types, the brown and the green.
They are for the most part fearless.
Perhaps because the children at the playhouse provide them with a limitless supply of Fruit Loops.
There is, naturally, also a vast golf course.
Oddly, considering it is well into the rainy season, huge swathes of the grass are brown.
A tree fell over along a pond,
making a convenient perch for this waterfowl.

Ducks meander about.
The tree lines in all directions have many thin crowns.

Finally, miraculously, for the better part of a day I was able to elude the reservation - and escape to see what real Costa Rica looks like. I am very grateful for the opportunity - but, I saw such heartbreaking misery that nothing could induce me to ever go back again.
A native tour guide led the foray, which began under a bridge that was a gift from China, given for obscure reasons left unexplained.
The highlight was an expedition on the river.
In Costa Rica, our guide informed us, the diet consists of: rice & beans for breakfast, rice & beans for lunch, and beans and rice for supper.
I was reminded of how totally dependent crops are on predictable rain, when we passed a rice field and he said that it isn't ready to be planted, there isn't enough water in it yet.
Apparently, there is a wet and a dry season. The finale of the dry is in February, when leaves from deciduous trees drop abruptly. By now, in June when the corn is thigh-high, the trees should all be leafed out, in prime condition. And yet that is not how it looks.
Even though an intermittently overcast sky produced vistas of incredible beauty,
the trip down the river, floating past ominous scenes of death and destruction, reminded me of the movie Apocalypse Now...
but no one else on the trip seemed to relate to the reference when I mentioned it.
Our tour guide claims these trees are Guanacaste.
Guanacaste is designated the national tree of Costa Rica, and according to Wikipedia, "Guanacaste is evergreen or briefly deciduous for 1-2 months during the dry season. Most foliage is shed in December, at the start of the dry season In late February, a growth surge is initiated that re-establishes a fresh thick crown by April...The Guanacaste is among the most majestic and aesthetically pleasing of tree species in its range..."
"Guanacaste are highly valued as ornamentals and the shade they provide creates many an oasis on the searing and sun-baked plains in its Pacific slope habitat."
I have attempted to take pictures of wildlife, at home, and in Costa Rica of course - and from my struggles I've been imbued with respect for professionals who must spend so much time waiting for a chance to take a picture of the elusive birds, butterflies, and other creatures.
Not to denigrate those skilled professionals now - I'm sure they have amazing patience - but I think part of the difficulty is that now, suddenly, there just isn't so much wildlife around! Flocks that were teeming with birds are now reduced to a handful.
We did come across quite a colony of howler monkeys.
They made an impressive racket.
And there were some delightful birds.
It was a challenge to zoom close enough to get good pictures.

As we were trolling along, I asked our guide if he had noticed any changes in the park.
Oh yes, it is terrible he told me.

What exactly have you seen?
The rain, it is so much more, the water level is higher.
The heavy deluges undermine the trees along the shore.
And what else, what of the vegetation? I persisted.
Terrible, he said again. Every night I see my friends, all tour guides, and we talk about this.
The trees are dying, he agreed.
Why do you think this is happening? He paused, unsure. I think it is the global warmings, he finally said.
Is there anything else? I persisted.
The animals, they are moving.
Why do you think they are moving - do you know where they are going? Could they be just dying because the trees and other vegetation are dying back and they don't have food?
He looked very concerned. I am going to tell my friends tonight what you said.
This crocodile looked immobile, like a sculpture in the mud.

But then our approach annoyed him.

And he began with abrupt speed to dash into the water.
This heron is reputed to devour baby crocs.
Here is another hidden in the shrubbery.

The birds flew away as we pursued them.
And that concluded our trip on the water - next, we went to a fantastic roadside restaurant, on the way back, for a delicious lunch.
The restaurant is surrounded by Guanacaste trees that are painfully bare.
Behind the building there is a fabulous garden of zinnias, that shimmered with myriad butterflies.
But the tree death is no less than tragic.
The Guanacaste can reach over 160 feet in height and the trunk is often 6.6 feet in diameter.
The butterflies were magical.

Now that I am home I have wasted no time catching up - here is my latest letter of this morning - to the New York Review of Books:

Dear Editor,

I was very glad to see that you published a review of Bill McKibbon's book, "Eaarth". Every time the facts about climate change are brought to our attention is critical to the effort to transition to clean energy sources - even though Dr. Stern's rosy assumptions in his conclusions fly in the face of the statistics he himself presents.
Mr. McKibben and his brethren such as Dr. James Hansen, and Dr. Joseph Romm, though sometimes at odds over policy, are in agreement in one area - a single-minded focus on CO2 emissions as by far the most important greenhouse gas leading to warming average global temperatures, and the manifold dangerous effects that will certainly result - indeed, are already occurring, such as more violent storms and floods, melting ice and permafrost, and most alarmingly, acidifying the oceans (a holocaust, notably neglected in the review).
Although these activists are chief among my climate heroes, I believe the sole emphasis on the CO2 greenhouse effect allows the oil and coal industry, who fund professional deniers, to manipulate the data and brazenly lie - undermining public confidence in the science, thus enabling policy makers to defer action.
There is an even more urgent result from burning fossil and biofuels that is almost universally neglected, which is that emissions other than CO2 - volatile organic compounds such as nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxides, and acetaldehyde - contribute to the inexorably rising levels of tropospheric ozone. There is a surfeit of scientific research demonstrating that ozone is toxic - not just to humans, causing epidemics of cancer, emphysema, and asthma - but to vegetation as well. The fact that discussion of these incontrovertible effects is virtually taboo, even though they are exhaustively documented, is testament to the existential threat posed to life on earth from the pollution created by human activities.
Trees are particularly sensitive to ozone because of cumulative exposure, and all species have been dying at unprecedented and accelerating rates around the world. In a weakened condition they are also more vulnerable to insects, fungus, and disease. More recently, annual crops, ornamentals in pots, and aquatic plants display the identical damage to foliage that indicates poisoning from ozone. Leaves and coniferous needles are stippled, brown, shriveled, wilted, and falling off as their stomata are unable to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. The carnage in the Gulf of Mexico that has generated so much anguish is merely a more visible manifestation of what the invisible but lethal emissions of burning oil do every day, everywhere, which dwarf the spill in magnitude.

Plants are the bottom of the food chain. Governments around the world should institute rationing of fuel, which should be burnt for only essential purposes. Frivolous uses should be declared illegal. All sorts of products were rationed during WWII, and most people willingly cooperated. The dangers posed by climate change and ecosystem collapse are far more serious. It is crucial that we begin an all-out conversion to clean energy on an emergency basis before widespread famine is the result.

Gail Zawacki
Thanks to Catman306, I have this story from Florida to share - guess what! Trees are dying, and fast, and even though it is being blamed on beetles and fungus, nobody can really explain why it is spreading so fast. Leaves turning brown and falling off? Sound familiar??
Ambient toxins from the oil gusher in the Gulf are far above EPA standards for human health according to these test reports, but does anyone but me wonder what these volatile organic compounds do to trees and other plants?

Desdemona has the story about the next great extinction event, already well underway in our oceans. And lest anyone has any illusions about what that means, aside from the hundreds of millions of humans who rely on the oceans for food and employment, life in the sea provides half of the oxygen we need to breathe!
I highly recommend the most recent post on Climaticide regarding the BP disaster, about what President Obama knew and when he knew it, and the issue of who should be liable for corporate malfeasance.

The zinnia leaves and even the flowers have clear evidence of stomatal damage.
Last night in Costa Rica! Al fresco supper on a beach, where the waiters insisted diners first rinse their hands in floral water bowls before eating.
A serenade, and delicious food from the sea.

A glorious sunset...
A last toe dip into the vast Pacific...
And that was that - I do not expect to ever return to Costa Rica again.
The morning flight was at 7 - meaning a 4 am wakeup call. Ugh.
Of course the airport had dead trees.
I missed the opportunity to take pictures when the arrival plane descended - so I was prepared with my camera ready on the departure take off. I had been absolutely shocked to see that it is obvious from the air that many, many trees have no leaves. It is WORSE than in New Jersey, which has up until now seemed incomparably ravaged.

In this crop of the first photo it is easy to detect the many bare crowns.

And in this zoom also. Not to mention of course, it doesn't reveal the dead trees that may have been removed - only those still standing.

If we are already seeing such devastating effects as the floods this spring - and more reported just today, in China! - heat records being broken (Pakistan and Kuwait both over 120 with hundreds of deaths) - and we only have had a less than one degree Celsius average warming so far, with more guaranteed in the pipeline...what the hell is in store for us?

Oh right, Hell.


  1. Gail, you have a great style of photos and text. Pure journalism...

    I notice you have lots of flowers in there too... hmmm.

  2. What a great photo essay. I'm appalled to see the dead and dying trees from the air as you flew out.

    The link to the St. Mary bay tree die-off is broken.

    Fall on me - R.E.M. Long lost friends from 31 years ago. They got a better gig. I got a B.S. in Geography instead. What was a scary prediction 20 years ago (Dr. James Hansen) is rapidly becoming a nightmare.

    "Buy the sky and sell the sky." And wreck the air, we don't care
    What is it we do? Not know the difference between quantity and quality.
    See "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

    Thanks for blogging and keep it up.

  3. The question is, which will occur first: (a) dead trees come crashing down around the White House prompting someone to notice, or (b) BHO grows a pair of Howlers and goes after the fossil fuel industry with both hands, both feet, and a B-52. After his speech last week (while you were hobnobbing with the Texas Fundies), it became pretty clear that he's as clueless as Colonel Mustard in the greenhouse with a garden hose.

  4. Gail, your blog is excellent. It's prolific, articulate, compelling and very moving. I admire you enormously for all the work and passion you put into this (not just the blog but also the letters and campaigning).

    In a way I hope that most of the damage to the flora you document in your blog *is* due to some specific human activity such as the untreated output of coal power stations, or burning of biofuels, or something like that - if so, then it's potentially fixable, by passing legislation to reduce nitrogen emissions for example. The natural world is going to have a hard enough time dealing with the changing climate, without being poisoned by our pollution as well.

  5. Icarus, thank you and you have brought up the exact reason I blather on about the trees.

    It IS a fixable problem. We are in for some terrible upheavals because of climate change, no doubt. But if stopped emitting ozone-producing volatile organic compounds, we would have a much more stable food supply, and trees would remain a carbon sink, and objects of natural beauty and wonder.

    I have always loved trees but now that I realize how little we know about them - kind of like whales communicating - I appreciate even more that trees are among the most mysteriously complex organisms on our planet, and the most tenacious.


Blog Archive

My Blog List

Search This Blog