This montage of Sugar Maple leaves posted on wiki
was created October 17, 2006 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The photographer captioned it: “pantone autumn - All from the same tree I should add.
” The “pantone” refers to a rather mundane patented color-matching formula for paint - but that aside, the whorl reminds me of the lost days when perfect, unblemished leaves like these could be found, even on the ground, and preserved between sheets of waxed paper. They used to adorn the windows of elementary schools, shining with the clarity of unblemished jewels when backlit by the sun.
I suppose someplace there are autumn leaves that retain such brilliance, but not in New Jersey anymore. For obvious geographical reasons this state is at the unfortunate vanguard of a very ominous trend. The luminous photo of Killington, Vermont below, with its snow-capped peak and glowing trees, has been circulating on facebook recently, to many enthusiastic accolades. There was no attribution and it was undated - but I knew as soon as I saw it that it couldn’t be from this year. After a little searching, I tracked down the photographer
, Vyto Starinskas, and called him to ask when it had been taken.
He told me it was from 2005, plus or minus a year. Another professional, Loren Fisher, used the following photo to advertise his fall workshop for students in Vermont. Really! Since when does even an arty landscape inevitably contain a dead tree? He wrote on his blog:
“The foliage around Woodstock peaked last week but there is still good yellow and orange leaves hanging on. The deep reds didn’t appear this year, I think it was the lack of a killer frost, that is what usually makes the reds pop.” What nonsense - although more southerly states don’t have the predominance of sugar maples, fabled for their intense scarlet and vermilion, those they have do turn bright reds...without killer frosts. Well, no one wants to admit that their prospect for future income is dismal, and he is not the only one grasping at all sorts of lame excuses for why autumn isn’t what it used to be...or pretending that it still is.
The picture above accompanied that entry. It looks awfully rusty, just like New Jersey. There are many ways to establish just when peak foliage generally arrived in the past. One is the description of a boat cruise, from the New York Waterway archives
“The Shades of Autumn River Cruise is a non-stop, four-hour cruise offering views of the exquisite fall foliage along the Hudson River that Henry Hudson discovered 400 years ago and that has inspired writers and artists ever since. While passengers enjoy spectacular views of one of the nation’s most scenic foliage routes, an experienced tour guide points out historical sites along the route and shares local folklore about one of the nation’s most picturesque regions.”
“Beginning October 10, and running every Saturday and Sunday through November 1, Shades of Autumn cruises will depart from Port Imperial in Weehawken, NJ, at 10 am and from Manhattan’s Pier 78 at West 38th Street and the Hudson River (12th Avenue) at 10:30 am.”
So, we can safely assume that peak foliage back in 2009 was anticipated to begin October 10 and be worthy of notice until at least the last day of the month. In fact, back in 2006, it was even going strong well into November, because it was announced on a post
from October 23:
“By Popular Demand, Two Additional Weekends have been Added to the Shades of Autumn Schedule: November 4th/5th & 11th/12th” - so that year, autumn foliage was selling cruise tickets for a full month. A blog post about the trip features the following photo from October 21st or 22nd. I see, possibly, one bare tree crown at most, in the woods along the water.
But oops perhaps something happened recently to discourage sales, because the New York Waterway website announced
this season that autumn is cancelled:
Nevermind, the Washington Post is tracking the changing foliage and posting photos. The following pictures are from an article
titled Photos from Skyline Drive: Near peak foliage color working its way towards the lowlands.
The route taken was due west of Washington, driving south about 100 miles, on Sunday, October 20, and the predominant color is rust from oaks. Caption:
A path through the woods around or above 3,000 feet. Trees were either at peak or bare in this area.
The comments are revealing.
1:49 PM EDT
Nice shots! I photographed in the Shenandoah Valley yesterday and I was surprised how the the color of the foliage on the Blue Ridge and in many areas of the Valley are fairly dull in color. There are a few trees that pop, but many sections of woods are turning yellow-brown and losing leaves already.
2:40 PM EDT
Yeah, that was my general impression too. You can see it in the city where the color is beginning as well. Already a fair amount of leaf drop in spots here too. Seemed to go from green to brown to ground. I don’t feel like I’m ever a great judge early in the season as to how it will finish though. I’m sure there will still be some good stuff locally one way or another. Look forward to seeing your pics!
Some nice pics there! While there is some good color out there for sure, I don’t think this year will be among the best. Main issue at my location is the tulip poplars (a common tall tree) seem to be going to brown prematurely whereas in past years they were a brilliant yellow. Maybe it was the abnormally dry period before the deluge.
1:11 PM EDT
I agree with that, there’s a lot of brown or already bare hickory, walnut (normal), ash (abnormal) and even some dried up oak in my yard. But of all of those, the oaks are going to provide the most color with their dull orange to dull burgundy. Maples might be ok, but I don’t have many maples. The other factor besides dry was the cicadas which chomped branches and nutrients back in June.
11:57 AM EDT
My take is that the colors are a little dull this year though as much as I love fall color my experience locally is somewhat limited to the city sans car. It does seem that maybe our extended dry stretch was a bit too much then mix that with the rainy stretch and you’ve got some issues. The good news is even a year that isn’t the best is still pretty!
I get it now - It’s too much rain...no, wait, it’s too dry!! Argh...note the smog in the picture above. Naturally, I left my usual sort of comment on the story:
The trees are dying from air pollution. It’s a global issue. Trees absorb ozone through their leaves when they photosynthesize and it damages the stomates, because ozone is a highly reactive gas and especially toxic to vegetation.. You can’t see ozone, but the background level is inexorably increasing in the lower atmosphere, as more and more precursors are emitted and travel around the world. When plants are injured from repeated, cumulative exposure they lose natural immunity to insects, disease and fungus. It’s a huge problem well known to scientists and agronomists, but they don’t like to publicize it because the only way to deal with it is to drastically curtail fuel emissions and agricultural chemicals. See Whispers of the Ghosting Trees
At an earlier report
, from October 18, even more ghastly landscapes are presented as somehow representative of beautiful autumn foliage. Above is Maryland on the 16th which says “The best fall color for an area occurs during the shortening days of autumn when days are bright, sunny and cool, when nights are cool but not below freezing
, and when there has been ideal rainfall,” - wait, didn’t somebody just say killer frost is ideal? If you go to the weather webcam
where that shot came from, you can watch the leaves go from green to brown over the last month, animated - which is either really cool, or really depressing. (You can click around and view webcams from all over the country at that site, which is endlessly entertaining. Try Stowe, VT
for a shocker. These animations are a powerful tool, some scientist should study them.) This morning I checked back at Maryland, and there is already snow, brrrr:
Below, a photo of Shenandoah National Park from the National Park Service that rivals China for smog, is captioned “In the northern section of the park, there is still some green, especially on maple trees, and although some trees still have their leaves and are showing some lovely fall hues, many of the oaks and dogwoods and much of the rest of the leaves are past peak color.
Comments here are telling as well:
Oaks past peak???
My experience has been that most of the oaks are among the last trees to change leaf color...they may still be green rather than past peak. There have been years down here when some of the oaks were still green by Thanksgiving.
Exactly - it is absolutely remarkable how the oaks are turning rust far earlier than normal even while other trees are still green...and those other trees - the maples, poplars, sycamores, tupelo, birch and sweetgum - are going directly from green to spotted, shriveled and brown.
Last October I followed with great amusement the exploits of Sharon Meyer, leaf peeper extraordinaire, who reports annually for Vermont’s television channel WCAX on the progression of fall foliage. Starting with the covered bridge above, these are images from the videos of this year’s excursion, 2013.
Every year her job as Vermont tourism booster becomes more daunting, and she is forced to focus on features of the New England landscape that will attract visitors, aside from the colorful leaves, which are fast becoming history.
In her series this year, covered bridges served as decoys.
Originally envisioned as a month-long journey, starting in the north and working south, this year the leaves fell so precipitously her jaunt was condensed to only four reports over less than two weeks
, airing on September 25
, October 1
. In other words, in a two week time frame, she and her photographer couldn’t locate what once was a month’s worth of colorful foliage. Don’t expect them to admit that, though.
What’s astonishing is that the only task they had was to wander around the countryside looking for enticing scenery - and this is the best they could come up with!
When I was growing up in Massachusetts, we used to set up a spookhouse for Halloween that began at the steps that led to the kitchen door, and followed the wrap-around porch to the further side at the back of the house. Along the way, various ghouls and monsters greeted the trick-or-treaters. In the dark, people unfamiliar with the terrain didn’t realize that the house was built on a hill, and that the drop from the far end of the porch to the ground was much steeper than the two steps they had climbed - about eight feet or so. We took great delight in terrorizing our victims into stepping off the back, only to find themselves unexpected proof of gravity for a few sickening seconds.
How we relished their shrieks of terror! But no one ever got hurt, because we amassed a gigantic pile of billowing leaves to cushion their fall, with helpers below to replenish it with rakes after each landing. Back then - on Halloween, north of Boston - the leaves remained supple and soft and fluffy, and clean - you could walk away from a pile with nothing sticking to your hair or clothing. Now, I can’t imagine subjecting anyone to a dive into a pile of the brown, dusty, brittle leaves that are on the ground and have been accumulating for weeks already.
Look at those bare branches and compare them to the photo at the beginning, of Killington, in 2005!
Except for the last two which are screen shots I took from their video, these are all stills that THEY chose as the best samples of fall color. This is the brightest close-up leaf shot:
This is a screenshot from their video which looks exactly like the leaves in New Jersey.
Columbus Day is traditionally the big weekend for tourists to visit New England to admire the foliage, when all the hotel rooms are at a premium and booked well in advance. This holiday began Friday, October 11. By then the leaves were mostly down and days earlier, Sharon had abandoned her attempt to find peak foliage.
Meanwhile, a poorly edited article looking at old data
attempts to connect warmer temperatures from climate change to a longer growing season. Since it’s obvious by merely looking around that we now have a shorter
autumn season with leaves falling off early, all the knock-on effects that are speculated upon by the climate reporter are just, stupid
“The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by.”
“Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982.”
That’s right! They’re extrapolating from data that ended in 2008, over five years ago...exactly when the die-off of trees from rising background tropospheric ozone started to accelerate exponentially.
“‘A lengthening growing season could open up the door for invasive species, particularly invasives that are adaptable to different climates,’ said Carolyn Enquist, science coordinator for the National Phenology Network
. ‘We could see more invasives or invasives (that) are more active in the fall.’”
“Enquist cited gypsy moths, which are an invasive species. Though they were introduced in New England in the 1860s, gypsy moths have spread far and wide across the U.S. in the past 40 years. One gypsy moth can lay up to 1,000 eggs, which in turn become very hungry caterpillars that are partial to oak, birch, aspens, and other deciduous trees. Some research suggests a warming world will favor the growth of gypsy moth populations from Virginia to Utah.”
Oh wait, so gypsy moths arrived in the 1860s, but mostly just hung around for a HUNDRED YEARS
and didn’t begin spreading far and wide until starting 40 years ago...maybe as background levels of tropospheric ozone started rising?
It’s the same ridiculous situation in the UK, where foresters are frantic about the explosion of invasive species, as reported by yet another article
in an avalanche of warnings, with a list of six “new” pests.
So much easier to blame a “foreign” invasion than acknowledge that there are all sorts of native insects and fungus that have recently become epidemic, too. And what makes it especially silly is that the British, thanks to their mild climate (or it used to be mild!) have been importing exotic stock from all over the world for centuries, literally, for planting in their extensive arboretums of public parks and private estates. If the sole problem were alien species, they would have decimated the forests long ago. Nope. The problem is the trees are weakened from air pollution. Trees are even more damaged than annual crops because they absorb ozone season after season, sustaining cumulative injury.
Following is yet more evidence of earlier (not later!) leaf drop. Several years ago I took some photographs off the web that were dated the day before Thanksgiving, November 21, 2007. The location is Fairfield, a town in northern New Jersey. You can see other comparisons from intervening years at a post I called, This Impostor
- but for now below, I’ve reproduced them with pictures I took of the same locations last year, 2012, on November 14 - a week earlier than the 2007 set.
I don’t think I’ll bother to go back in November this year, unless I have nothing better to do - I can’t believe there will be a single leaf to see. Above, 2007 - the same park below, last fall 2012...at a week earlier:
Trees along the street in 2007:
The same view, in 2012:
The entrance to Kyocera corporate headquarters, across from the park, in 2007, with smashing red maples:
The drive in 2012:
Time for the latest correspondence!
From: Wit's End [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 3:36 PM
To: Lear, Gary; Puchalski, Melissa; Sharac, Timothy
Subject: question about CASTNET
Dear Mr. Lear, Ms. Puchalski and Mr. Sharac,
I am writing to try to understand a passage in this document:
“CASTNET is the primary network for measuring rural ozone
concentrations and used to assess changes in background
ozone concentrations, a known indicator of climate change.
The 3-year average of the 4th highest daily maximum rolling
8-hour average ozone concentration has decreased 19% be-
tween 2000–2002 (83 ppb) and 2009–2011 (67 ppb) in the
Eastern US. The Western US realized a 5% reduction over the
same time period (73 ppb reduced to 67 ppb).”
Does the 3-year average of the 5th highest daily maximum as described measure the “background” concentrations? Is it the “background” - as in, persistent, constant level - that has decreased 19%? Or is that decrease referring to peak concentrations?
Any clarification you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your attention.
Thanks to the government shutdown, there was a delay, but as soon as they were back on the job I got a reply:
Puchalski, Melissa at 3:47 PM ToWit's End
The 3-year average of the 4th highest daily maximum represents the peak ozone concentrations. The decrease refers to the concentrations at the high of the distribution.
We use the term background because many of our sites are located in areas away from pollution sources (remote areas). In some areas background concentrations have been shown to be increasing (ie. the 10-20th percentile). http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7279/full/nature08708.html
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
As it turns out, I had already reported on the research she forwarded about rising background ozone levels, in 2011
(where there is all sorts of information if anyone has a burning desire to know more). So it was as I expected - background levels...as in the persistent, constant concentration - are indeed rising. I believe this is the primary issue, because plants have no respite. Even though there were much higher peak concentrations in the past, they were temporary, and vegetation had time in between to recover. Now it does not.
I had intended to report on the World Health Organization’s announcement that air pollution causes cancer (duh) but Tom Lewis wrote such an excellent summary on his site The Daily Impact
that I feel compelled to share it, with the illustration he chose which matches nicely with a photograph coming up:
|Photo by Mike Licht/Flickr |
It’s Official: Breathing is Bad for You
“The World Health Organization has classified polluted air as a Group One human carcinogen. That puts the air that most people in the world are breathing in the same category of harmfulness as such things as asbestos and cigarette smoke. It also ranks the eastern United States, along with China, Mexico and North Africa as having the most polluted air in the world.
In some ways, of course, this is old news. Some of us figured out a few decades ago that polluted air is not good for you. Nevertheless, as reported by Reuters
this new study is going to rock some big boats.”
“For one thing, it cast a very large net, reviewing thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies published around the world, some of which had followed large populations of people for many decades. This is important because the symptoms of air pollution can take 20 or 30 years to manifest, and few studies have the time to wait and see. For another, it did not restrict its attention to one component of air pollution, but simply looked for the effects of dirty air.”
[hm, what if it takes 20 or 30 years to manifest as impacting forests too?]
“In the past, the favorite defense of any industry accused of doing harm by polluting has been to say, a) We’ve been polluting for years and nothing bad has happened yet,’ or b), in a case where something really bad has happened, ‘you can’t prove it was our particular emissions that did it.’ This has always struck me as the equivalent of a drunk firing a gun into a crowded room and then saying in his defense to the people hit, ‘Well, I wasn’t aiming at you, it was not my intention to hurt you in particular.’ The weight and scope of this study might help create a new legal principle that recognizes firing a gun into a crowded room as a harmful — and actionable — act.”
“The study says that in 2010, nearly a quarter of a million people around the world died from lung cancer that was caused by air pollution. The study says that anyone breathing polluted air has a dramatically elevated chance of getting and dying from lung cancer. It also found strong evidence to suggest that bladder cancer is another effect of dirty air. Other studies have detailed the toll various pollutants take on us in the form of respiratory and heart disease.”
“The tendency to treat this new study and others like it as old news is something we should fight. It is akin to the feeling of peaceful sleepiness that comes over you when you are about to freeze to death.”
“We need to realize, and keep constantly in mind, that the new
news — such as the daily revelations about the onset of global climate change — is also about our old familiar friend air pollution. Trendy new terms such as carbon footprint and greenhouse gases refer to air pollution. The term is old, the concept is old, the knowledge that it is killing us is old. If we do nothing about it, it is our civilization that is not going to get much older.”
That is brilliant - trendy new terms refer to air pollution
. The climate change activists and scientists usurped environmentalism long ago, which has been a terrible strategic error. They would have had more success if they had hammered home the health and ecosystem damage done by air pollution rather than focused solely on distant, future issues like melting ice that have been far too intangible for most people to relate to. Cancer and starvation are much more compelling motivators. Ah well. Hard science avoids any prescriptives, and chose to shun any association with the discredited tree-huggers, and the tainted, sloppy, messy, soft science of holistic ecology. So now, it’s at least forty years too late now for anything but the shouting (and much worse).
I can’t blame them (although they do irritate me). They have only chosen what we all choose. Expediency, short-term gain...what I used to deride as easy-access, low-maintenance condominium living. Nothing is being done and nothing will be done to alter our trajectory...such is our nature - see Monday’s headline
: Latest China smog emergency shuts city of 11 million people
. Conditions that should be unacceptable - like genetically modified crops - have become the necessary collateral damage to maintain modern civilization, and nothing will intervene until it the entire edifice collapses.
New resolution - when people ask for proof that air pollution is killing trees, the response should be, How Could It Not Be?
Last Friday, October 18, I went to High Point State Park. Along the drive, trees are being removed in swathes.
No wonder...they are rotten on the inside, and so they are hazardous to the crowds that visit in the summer to swim in the lake and hike the trails.
Fungus is taking over, and all the misplaced hysteria about pine bark beetle epidemics misses their symbiotic relationship with the fungus that actually kills the tree. The beetles merely eat it.
Curiosity should be directed to why fungus is infecting ALL trees, not just pines.
Plus, beetles are rampant in places that never get cold, which has long been linked to ozone. From a US Forest Service
report in 1996:
Preface to Evaluating Ozone Air Pollution Effects on Pines in the Western United States
“The high rate of fossil fuel consumption needed to sustain the economies of western States, coupled with ever–increasing population densities, result in air pollution. The climate and topography in California are particularly conducive to the accumulation of ozone in urbanized air basins and the subsequent long–range transport to forested mountains downwind. Ozone damages many plant
species including ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. The natural range of these species in the Sierra Nevada and southern California mountains is extensive. Chronic ozone exposure damages the foliage, reduces growth and makes trees more vulnerable to natural pests like the pine bark beetle.”
Ironically, this obsession with temperature to the exclusion of all else has just been undermined by climate scientists themselves, who now report that drought, not temperature, is a better correlation to beetle attack.
The title of one article
on this angle declares rather forlornly:
Tiny Beetles Are Killing Off Huge Swaths Of Spruce Forests Because Of Drought, Too
“A massive spruce beetle outbreak that’s been decimating coniferous forests in the northern Colorado mountains has been caused mainly by drought, according to a new study. The study, published this week in the journal Ecology by University of Colorado scientists, found that drought is a better predictor of beetle outbreaks in the West than temperature.”
Drought, too? You don’t say? Heh - that sounds suspiciously like temperature isn’t the main driver, after all! But don’t hold your breath waiting for climate scientists to say so. Particularly because it has also been long well established that an initial effect of ozone, even before visible injury to leaves, is on below-ground processes. Plants repairing damaged leaves allocate less carbon to roots, making both crops and trees more vulnerable to drought - and wind.
The rangers can’t keep up with all the dying trees, so some ancient hulks are just left to stand.
It almost looks colorful from a distance, which is why it is important to scrutinize the leaves.
This is very typical, of every sort of plant.
It is far too common to be blamed on individual diseases or fungus, which are species specific.
When I first realized, years ago, that the trees are dying, I cried every night. I cried until there were no tears left, and then in despair I kept crying without them. I swiftly understood that trees are like the warp and woof of the complex tapestry of life, and that without them, everything else would cease to exist. Everything I cherished, from my own children to birds and bugs and flowers, must cease to exist.
I felt a desperate yearning to know why. WHY are the trees dying? I wrote to everyone I could think of who might know or care - foresters and nurserymen and scientists of all stripes. Every single one of those who bothered to respond reassured me that except in isolated incidents (most notably, they surmised, my back yard) the trees are fine.
Nevertheless, they’re not fine, and along came a survey in 2011 that has yet to be challenged. The New York Times reported on the research published by Craig Allen et al, in an article
titled Dying Forests, How Bad Is It, Really?
He and his co-authors established that indeed, forests are in die-off and trees are dying prematurely - in an “accelerated mortality” - all over the world.
Naturally, he and his colleagues lay the blame at the door of climate change, which is what I did too, initially...until I realized that plants being watered, even tropical flowers that love heat, exhibit the same damage as trees growing in the ground. And that is why Wit’s End persists. Some people, in some places, see what I have seen (and thank you
for writing to tell me). I’ve learned there is no way to convince people who prefer not to know, so I don’t want to persuade anyone that trees are dying. Likely the consequence when it becomes too obvious to ignore or deny will be that most people will go insane anyway! So, I just want to be here for those who can see it and want to understand.
But wait, let’s digress, why not. We’ll come back to High Point. I found a wonderful site, Shorpy.com, that archives old photographs. What is especially neat is that, if you go to the site and click on their original photo (each of the following is linked in the caption), it enlarges so that you can scroll around as though you had a magnifying glass. The precision on many of them is astounding. You can see each blade of grass, or a wisp of hair blowing across a face.
|Shoo-fly at Madame Boyle’s 1901 Resort in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi|
It makes me feel like I have entered the place, crossing over a century of time. How I would like to go back in time! Aside from the fabulous, ancient trees, even the roses on that adorable bungalow look exquisite. Below is another view of the same place, looking out towards the water. People had to hold very still for photographs back then, but in this scene, there is barely visible the blurred smudge of a child, skipping or running on the sidewalk, which looks like a ghost (on the left, under the two boats in the water).
Shoo-fly at Madame Boyle’s 1901
resort Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
And I love the two little boys grinning in the background, delighted to sneak into what must be the original photobomb!
The trees along this city street loom so far above the people and buggies that it almost looks like it is fake, or a dream.
|Saratoga Springs, NY 1915 - Broadway at the US Hotel|
I particularly like the next one, because it is of a town near where I grew up, and I had many friends in my high school who lived in grand old Salem houses just like these.
|Essex Street. Salem, Massachusetts, 1910|
This is a spectacularly large birch that dwarfs the people standing next to it. I’ve never seen a birch anywhere close to that large, and it solves the mystery of how cabinetmakers in the Colonial era made solid birch tabletops three feet wide.
|The Wizard Tree in Cathedral Woods of the White Mountains, North Conway. New Hampshire, 1900|
In Springfield, more enormous trees form a canopy over even a very wide road. Most of these are elms, and everyone knows that they died off by the millions in the 1920’s, from imported Dutch Elm disease. Could pollution have had anything to do with it, way back then?
|State Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1908 |
I don’t know! George Mollison wrote in 1981 of the “phasmid conspiracy
” - the tendency to blame bugs and fungus for what people have initiated - and he included chestnuts and elms in that group. Michael T. Klare, who points out
with rare honesty in The Third Carbon Age
that “...humanity is not
entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas,” also delves back to the early 1800’s and writes:
“The same coal technology that gave Britain such global advantages also brought great misery in its wake. As noted by energy analyst Paul Roberts in The End of Oil, the coal then being consumed in England was of the brown lignite variety,
‘chock full of sulfur and other impurities.’ When burned, ‘it produced an acrid, choking smoke that stung the eyes and lungs and blackened walls and clothes.’ By the end of the nineteenth century, the air in London and other coal-powered cities was so polluted that ‘trees died
, marble facades dissolved and respiratory ailments became epidemic.’”
So here we come to a fascinating photograph from Shorpy, a 1905 panoramic view of the plant of the Westinghouse Air Brake Co., which manufactures brakes for trains. If you go to the site you can zoom in on the most minute details; I have enlarged some areas of interest below.
|Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, 1905|
You might notice that dominating the center of the picture is a large smokestack. There were no doubt others in the vicinity, which is near Pittsburgh’s filthy steel manufacturing industry. This was back in the day before they cleverly figured out to raise the smokestacks, in order to better disburse the pollutants over a wider area. Instead, it stayed close to home and killed everything in proximate vicinity. Check out the trees on the crest, and also on the hillside.
The older trees in town are dying too - their branches are bare, even though it’s clearly summer as the younger trees still have leaves.
In the photo below you can see the same corroded, peeling bark that is now ubiquitous.
I looked for the history of pollution in that area, and found that according to the EPA
a town not thirty miles away from Wilmerding was an early posterchild for dirty air almost fifty years later:
In October 1948, Donora, Pa., was enveloped in a lethal haze.
Over five days, nearly half of the town’s 14,000 residents experienced severe respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It was difficult to breathe. The death toll rose to nearly 40.
Disturbing photos show Donora’s streets hidden under a thick blanket of gray smog. A warm air pocket had passed high above the town, trapping cooler air below and sealing in pollutants.
Donora was no stranger to pollution. Steel and zinc smelters had long plagued the town with dirty air. But the air pocket left pollutants with no escape route. They sat stewing in the streets, where residents breathed them in lethal doses.
The situation in Donora was extreme, but it reflected a trend. Air pollution had become a harsh consequence of industrial growth across the country and world.
Crises like Donora’s were widely publicized; people took notice and began to act.
Scientists started investigating the link between air pollution and health. States began passing legislation to reduce air pollution. And in 1970, a milestone year, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments which led to the establishment of the nation’s air quality standards.
Okay, enough history! Back to High Point last Friday. If you look sort of at the center of this photo, you can see a straight slash through the forest on the other side of the Delaware River. That is one pathway of many being made for fracking pipelines, to carry gas or contaminated waste water to the port in Newark. (I posted photos last April
from a hike along that cut with anti-fracking activists, but they are dreary scenes, and needless to say, activists are unable to slow the frenetic pace of extreme carbon extraction.)
I won’t say there are NO leaves at all, anymore, that are luminous and clear. I found these, after all:
But they are too few and far between. Here is one of the brightest trees.
Even its leaves have necrotic lesions.
Having recently learned about the Dust Bowl and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) - which is covered in the post Nostalgia -
I looked at the stone walls and buildings their members had constructed with new appreciation.
There are several which are full of broken sinks and other equipment, that are wide open.
Despite being dead for all intents and purposes, this maple continues a valient attempt to continue growing.
The stone work is beautiful, and it is sad that these buildings stand unused, with the carefully crafted wooden framing vulnerable to the elements.
This is a lonely bright red tree. In the background is a picnic shelter, also built by the CCC.
America did a wonderful thing with that program, which benefited the young men who were employed, thier famlies who they were required to help support - and subsequent generations who have enjoyed the shelters, trails, and bridges they built in parks, and the half-billion trees they planted.
Those trees in the midwest shelterbelts, that helped rescue agriculture after the Dust Bowl, are now around eighty years old and dying prematurely, as is this young maple with blighted leaves.
On the way home from High Point, I stopped to admire an old barn, which was once used as a Girl Scout camp.
When I walked towards this charming stone outbuilding, I tripped. Downhill, onto the pavement. Faceplant. OUCH.
Fear not - only the outer, protective lens cap was smashed and even though the lens is now permanently dented and fused with the frame of the broken cap, I was able to pick out the broken glass, and continue to use the camera - Yay!
The following is a news article about the release of a report from the European Environment Agency regarding the current state of pollution in the EU:
“BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Air pollution is dangerously high across many parts of Europe, resulting in premature deaths, ill health and huge economic losses linked to reduced crop yields, Europe
’s environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.”
“While emissions of some pollutants have declined sharply in Europe in recent decades, more diesel cars and a rise in wood burning by households as a cheap alternative to gas mean other types of harmful pollution are receding more slowly.
“European regulators are expected to propose a tightening of EU limits on microscopic particles known as particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants, with legislative proposals expected before the end of the year.
“A total of 22 European countries including France, Italy and Poland exceeded the daily EU limit value for PM in 2011, while stricter, non-binding guideline limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) were exceeded at most monitoring stations across continental Europe, according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
“EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said it should be realistic for the European Union to achieve WHO guidelines by 2050 at the latest and debate was ongoing on what kind of interim targets the Commission would propose.
” [the 2050 framing is a bit of wishful thinking, to put it mildly]
‘My main objective is to put the EU on a clear pathway towards achieving WHO guidelines,
’ he said at a presentation of the EEA report.
’s a roadmap for how we can live longer, live healthier and protect our fragile ecosystems better.
’” [which is a politer way of saying, our ecosystems are being destroyed.]
PROGRESS SO FAR
“In the last decade, tighter European regulations on power stations and other sources of pollution have seen a 50 percent cut in emissions of sulphur dioxide, which causes acid rain, while carbon monoxide emissions have fallen by a third.
“By contrast, the amount of harmful particles and ozone in the air has fallen only slightly. Combined with WHO findings that lower concentrations of air pollution can be more harmful than previously thought, pressure is building on the European Union to do more.
“‘Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems. Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment, according to current standards,’ said Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the Copenhagen-based EEA.”
“...Ground-level ozone pollution - formed indirectly by a combination of sunlight and mixtures of other pollutants in the atmosphere - inflicts huge damage on EU crop production, particularly in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France and Spain.
“It has been estimated that ozone pollution resulted in production losses of 27 million metric tons of grain in Europe in 2000.
“The increasing number of diesel vehicles on Europe’s roads, particularly newer models, are a major source of nitrogen dioxide, one of the main precursor pollutants that form ozone, the report says.
That is because while modern diesel exhaust after-treatment systems reduce fine particle and other emissions, they increase direct nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Twenty-seven million metric tons of grain lost in Europe in 2010 from ozone! That is staggering, especially since it only reflects reductions to grains, not all the other vegetables that are even more likely to be damaged, such as leafy crops like spinach. And of course, how to measure the losses to perennial crops, and ornamentals, and trees, that lose productivity year after year?
Following are two graphs and excerpts from the original publication
by the European Environment Agency, Air Quality in Europe, 2013 Report. It is well worth reading because it talks about the impossibility of controlling ozone levels with local regulation due to the transboundary precursors. Also, it quantifies (no doubt in my mind, underestimates) economic losses from reduced forest productivity and, most crucially, acknowledges the role of methane in continental-scale ozone formation. The pictures are from plants in a nursery, taken last Saturday, October 19th. Notice that they have exactly the same sort of damaged leaves as plants growing in the ground in the woods, even though they have have been regularly watered. The only thing they share in common with leaves in the forests is the composition of the atmosphere.
The map shows the exposure of forest areas to ozone (AOT40), reference year 2010.
Below, a map of European agricultural area exposures to ozone.
“Unlike primary air pollutants, which are emitted directly into the air, ground-level (tropospheric) O3
is not directly emitted into the atmosphere. Instead, it is formed from complex chemical reactions following emissions of precursor gases such as nitrogen oxides (a family of gases also known as NOX
that includes NO and NO2
) and non-methane VOCs (NMVOCs). At the continental scale, methane (CH4
) and carbon monoxide (CO) also play a role in O3
[Well, since methane emissions are spiking - between the fracking frenzy and permafrost melt and who knows, sub-Arctic clathrates - and plays a role in ozone formation at the continental scale, that could explain some of the problem. Everything in the middle of the report claiming steady reductions in emissions from the EU can be ignored, because these parts are what really matters:]
Relationship of O3 precursors to ambient O3 concentrations
“The relationship of O3 concentration to the emitted precursors is not linear. There is a discrepancy between the cuts in O3 precursor gas emissions and the change in observed O3 concentrations in Europe. The reasons for this include increasing inter-continental transport of O3 and
its precursors in the northern hemisphere and other factors that are likely to mask the effects of European measures to reduce O3
precursor emissions. These other factors include climate change/variability, NMVOC emissions from vegetation the magnitude of which is difficult to quantify, and fire plumes from forest and other biomass fires.”
“Formation of tropospheric O3
from increased concentrations of CH4
may also contribute to the sustained O3
levels in Europe. Methane concentrations increased continuously during the 20th century, before growth slowed after 1990. Then, between 1999 and 2007 CH4
concentrations levelled off. Since 2007, however, measurements suggest that concentrations of CH4
have started to rise again (Dlugokencky et al., 2009). Methane is a slowly-reacting pollutant that is well mixed across the world. Isolated local and regional abatement of CH4
emissions may therefore have limited impact on local O3
“Clearly, O3 concentrations are not only determined by precursor emissions but also by meteorological conditions. Sunlight and high temperatures favour O3 formation. Episodes of elevated O3 levels occur during periods of warm, sunny weather. However, independent of the episodic nature of O3 pollution that is strongly influenced by meteorological conditions, emissions of O3 precursor gases are sustaining a baseline of exceedances of legal concentration thresholds. The O3 pollution problem requires further mitigation efforts.”
3.4.2 Exposure of ecosystems
“The target value for protecting vegetation from high O3 concentrations is 18 000 μg/m3.hour (accumulated exposure above 40 μg/m3 for the summer months of May to July, averaged over five years. The long-term objective is no more than 6 000 μg/m3.hour of accumulated exposure to AOT40.
Since 2002, the target value threshold for protection of vegetation has been exceeded in a substantial part of the agricultural area in the EU countries. For example, in 2010 (the latest year available for this particular assessment) the threshold was exceeded in about 21 % of this area (Figure 3.7 and Map 3.3). Exceedances of the target values have notably been observed in southern and central Europe (Map 3.3). The long-term objective for vegetation protection was met in 15 % of the total agricultural area in 2010, mainly in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Nordic countries. When Map 3.3 (displaying the ozone exposure of vegetation in 2010) is compared to its counterparts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, an increase in the extent of areas with the highest AOT40 levels (red and dark red) can be seen specifically in the south-western regions of Europe (Horálek et al., 2012).”
…3.5.1 Impacts on health
“Once exposed to ozone, our bodies try to prevent it from entering our lungs. This reflex reduces the amount of oxygen we inhale. Inhaling less oxygen makes our hearts work harder. So for people already suffering from cardiovascular diseases or respiratory diseases like asthma, high-ozone episodes can be debilitating and even fatal. Section 1.3 describes the impact on human health from both short-term and long-term exposure (EEA, 2013f).”
3.5.2 Impacts on ecosystems and climate
“Sitch et al. (2007) have shown that the indirect impacts of ozone on global warming potential via ozone’s negative impacts on vegetation are of similar magnitude to ozone's direct impacts on global warming as a greenhouse gas.”
“Trees are an important carbon sink and many studies have shown that ozone reduces tree growth. Harmens and Mills (2012) estimated that between 1990 and 2000 the reduction in carbon stored in vegetation that can be accounted for by ozone concentrations was 6.2 % globally and almost 4 % in Europe.”
“Harmens and Mills (2012) concluded that today’s levels of ozone exposure in northern and central Europe have the potential to reduce the rate of increase in forest living biomass by roughly 10 %, as compared to pre-industrial ozone exposure levels.”
“Ozone-induced growth reductions also result in an economic loss for the forest owners. For example the annual economic loss for owners of Swedish forests has been estimated to be approximately EUR 40 m (Karlsson et al., 2005).”
“Mills and Harmens (2011) calculated that assuming soil moisture is not limiting to production, ozone impacts on wheat resulted in losses in production of 27 million tonnes of grain in 2000. The study showed that effects would be greatest in parts of central Europe (e.g. Germany, France and Poland), as well as in some Mediterranean countries (e.g. Italy, Spain).”
“The transboundary nature of ozone pollution requires international as well as national efforts to effectively reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds and hence ozone impacts. Such emission reductions would have co-benefits for climate change, ecosystems and human health. The goal of reducing ozone impacts on vegetation and health has been identified as a priority area in the long-term strategy of the UNECE LRTAP Convention, translated in the reviewed Gothenburg Protocol (UNECE, 2012).”
“Current policy measures to reduce O3 concentrations mainly target emissions of the precursors NOX and NMVOCs”
“The relevant NOX-reducing measures are described in Section 2.6 of this report (since NOX is also a precursor of PM). As noted in Section 2.3.4, the directives for road vehicle emissions and the LCP and IPPC Directives for industrial sources and power plants are estimated to have reduced NOX emissions from road vehicles by 55 % and from power plants and large industrial plants by 68 %, compared to a hypothetical situation with no directives implemented (EEA, 2010b).”
Okay, so that passage underlined above has me puzzled. Are the reductions they report based on modeled comparisons with HYPOTHETICAL situations? I looked up the “Kendall Correlation
” referred to in Section 2.3.4, and frankly I do not understand it and probably never will. But it would not surprise me if the reductions the report describes are based on a hypothetical comparison. And no, none of those plants display frost damage, look at my tomatoes!
These are trees in woods and yards, also taken that overcast Saturday afternoon, the 19th.
It is kind of absurd to see that some trees are mainly green and others altogether naked.
Looking up to where the leaves are turning at the top of the crown, the usual decay can be detected.
In 2005, a book
was published titled, Plant Responses to Air Pollution and Global Change
, edited by I. Omasa, I. Nouchi, and L.J. De Kok. Google is obligingly putting more and more (expensive) texts online - not the entire thing, but intriguing page views. It’s not possible to cut and paste, so I have transcribed these excerpts. (You’re welcome! - and please excuse the typos.) This book is a collection of research papers and what’s interesting is, they outline the global reach of the issue - and although it is hard academic slogging, the summaries are excellent in-depth analysis of just what is so bad about ozone.
Northern conditions enhance the susceptibility of birch to oxidative stress caused by ozone, Elina Oksanen, Dept. of Biology, U. of Joensuu, Finland
“Summary. Impacts of increasing tropospheric ozone, together with the most important interactive stress factors (such as drought, soil N, and early frost) on European white birch (betel pendular Roth) has been extensively investigated. In this paper, a summary of those studies, conducted both in chambers and realistic open-field conditions, is presented. Typical ozone responses in birch were found as impaired foliage, stem and root growth, altered shoot to root ration, delayed bud burst, visible foliar injuries, enhanced leaf senescence, disturbed stomatal conductance, impaired net photosynthesis and water-use efficiency, reduced concentrations of Rubisco, pigments starch, soluble protein and nitrogen, increased concentrations of phenolic compounds, increased transcription levels of genes encoding stress proteins PR-10 and PAL, increased stomatal density, reduced leaf thickness, ultrastructural injuries in chloroplasts and mitochondria, increased mesophyll cell wall thickness and reduced volume for intercellular space. Many of the negative responses were significantly promoted by simultaneous soil drought or early frost. Although elevated soil N counteracted ozone-caused growth reductions, delayed leaf senescence and increased shoot to root ratio may lead to disturbances in winter hardening processes and predispose the trees e.g. to soil drought due to a lower water uptake per higher water loss through transpiration.”
Northern conditions enhance forest damage
“During the last decade, impacts of increasing ozone concentrations on north-European forest trees have attracted considerable attention. There is increasing evidence that the prevailing ozone concentrations in Europe can cause visible leaf injury, growth and yield reductions in trees, as well as altered sensitivity to other biotic and abiotic stresses. The trees in northern environment are more susceptible to ozone, because the nights in summertime become too short to recover from ozone injury through repair processes driven by dark respiration (De Timmerman et al. 2002). In addition, cool and humid conditions in northern Scandinavia tend to promote ozone uptake by canopy cuticles (surface deposition) and stomatal conductance to result in high ozone flux into the leaf mesophyll. Therefore, the growth of northern trees can be affected by present ozone concentrations in spite of lower ozone concentrations and shorter ozone episodes as compared to more southern latitudes.”
“Intensive monitoring of impacts of environmental stress factors on European forests has revealed that deposit of nitrogen, acidity and heavy metals exceeded critical loads over a large proportion of the monitoring plots., indicating enhanced risks e.g. for tree root damage, storm damage, and crown damage by drought, frost and pests and changes in the plant diversity of ground vegetation. The results from monitoring suggest that forests in northern Europe are also more sensitive to excess nitrogen as compared to southern Europe. Therefore, active research is needed on interactive effects of ozone and other environmental stress factors on northern trees.”
Conclusions and future needs
“Taken together, we have strong evidence that increasing ozone together with other relevant environmental stresses pose a real risk factor for birch establishment, production, and sustainable forestry in Finland due to deteriorating above- and belowground processes, and tree vitality in long term. Although forest production is very important for Finnish economy, the view that any response must be related to economic loss reflects an out-dated view of forestry that is especially inappropriate in Europe (where the timber production is no longer seen as the primary function of forests). Many other European and US ozone studies with trees have shown that the regulatory capacity of resource allocate rather than productivity may be the most significant, in the long run, for the individual fitness and survival of trees. Chronic ozone stress can eventually lead to losses in species and genetic diversity, and therefore it needs to be examined to what extent forest decline through diseases or changes in competitiveness between the tree species may arise from predispositions induced by ozone. In addition, there are still several gaps of fundamental knowledge on mechanisms of ozone responses of trees. For example, incomplete senescence program leading to carbon and resource retention in leaves, the interplay among ozone-induced formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), localized cell death, early senescence, and carbon allocation to roots (responses of fine roots, in particular), changes in cell wall permeability due to lignification and a possible cross-linking of some structural proteins, and protective role of photorespiration to avoid photo-oxidation in senescing leaves should be unravelled.”
Physiological responses of trees to air pollutants at high elevation sites
~ Dieter Grill et al, Institut fur Pflanzenwissenschaften, Austria
“Summary. At high elevations a combination of environmental factors restricts the distribution of forest ecosystems. In addition to these natural imitations, high mountains are particularly prone to the deposition of air pollutants, which can lead to detrimental effects o the already struggling ecosystems. In the present chapter we review two typical examples of pollution impact on mountain forests...(2) the effects of photo-oxidants (mainly O3) on mixed conifer forests in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. Particular attention is paid to the potential interaction s between natural stress factors and anthropogenic pollution impact. The development of oxidative stress and antioxidative defence systems play a key role in plant responses to adverse environmental conditions. Components of these systems have been used as stress markers, a task that is complicated due to their involvement in plant responses to both natural factors and pollution. We present a multivariate approach, which has been evaluated under various different field conditions as a step towards the distinction of the effects of different stress factors on forest trees in the field.”
“High elevation environments put considerable restraints to tree growth and hence forest ecosystems reach the limits of their distribution. Low temperatures, short growing season, high irradiance with a higher UV proportion, low nutrient turnover rates in the soils, and high atmosphere concentrations of ozone contribute to this complex ‘high elevation stress’. As in most environmental stress situations, ‘high elevation stress’ becomes manifest as oxidative stress in plant cells. Photo-oxidative stress - caused by high irradiance in combination with factors limiting CO2 fixation in the Calvin cycle (e.g. low temperatures, stomatal closure) - but also direct action of oxidative compounds (O3) , or mechanical injuries (e.g. by the abrasive effects of ice crystals) all lead to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in plant tissues. Tree species reaching the alpine timberline must be adapted to these conditions. All plants have evolved antioxidative defence systems - consisting of low molecular weight antioxidants in aqueous and lipid phases, enzymes, and photoprotective pigments - to detoxify ROS or repair their adverse effects. If the capacity of these systems is too low to keep up with the generation rates of ROS, cell structures are destroyed and tissue damages emerge. Given the high natural stress levels at high elevations, and additional factors (e.g. anthropogenic air pollutants) can have detrimental effects...”
“(2) Photochemical smog formation in the huge urban region of the Los Angeles basin leads to high concentrations of photochemical oxidants (with the most abundant compound O3) being transported to the pine forests at the San Bernardino Mountains, where they lead to significant typical damages in these ecosystems.
“Unfortunately, mountains are particularly prone to the deposition of air pollutants.”
The photo above and the rest that follow were all taken this past Sunday, October 20, which was once again dry, sunny, and beautiful. The weather was beautiful, not the trees. On Saturday a locally fabled equestrian event, the running of the Far Hills Race Meet was held, which is also known as the biggest frat party on the planet. I had no interest in contending with the crowds (40,000 or so!), so I went there on Sunday aftewards...because this is supposed to be autumn at its finest in these parts, which is why they schedule the steeplechase in the first place. At the end there will be some photos from years past for comparison, but to start, these views are from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, which is on the way from Wit’s End to Moorland Farms, where the races are held. I decided to take pictures of the trees dying at the club because I hate Donald Trump. He is such an arrogant asshole, he even got the township to give his family special permission to have a burial plot on the premises. Notice that there is no difference in the condition of the trees that were planted by the landscapers, and the wild trees that remained in the hedgerows after the woods were cleared for the golf course. They are dying equally fast.
Complex assessment of forest condition under air pollution impacts
~ Tatiana A. Mikhailova, et. al Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
“Summary: Studies of coniferous forests have been carried out in the Baikal region (East Siberia) - one of the greatest regions in the boreal zone. The region is characterized by presence of large industrial centers emitting considerable amounts of pollutants. The Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) as a predominant region’s species is the main subject of the investigations. Air pollution effects on pine treestands have been assessed using a set of morphostructural and physiological parameters as well as needle elements content. According to the results obtained, within the polluted areas the following parameters such as trees crown defoliation, length of shoots, needles mass, intensity of photosynthesis and respiration, content of elements in the needles are found to have changed to a great extent.
Another text that can be partially read on Google Books is Environmental Science
by Daniel Chiras.
p. 417 - “Air pollution causes extraordinary environmental and economic damage worldwide. In Europe, 20 to 25% of the forests are dead or damaged from a multiple of factors such as disease, adverse weather, and insects. Air pollutants weaken trees, making them more susceptible to a host of biotic and abiotic factors.”
p. 418 - “Ozone, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid are the pollutants most hazardous to plants.”
“In southern California, millions of ponderosa pines have been damaged by air pollution (mostly ozone) from Los Angeles.”
“Ozone, for instance, makes plants more brittle. Farms in southern California and on the East Coast report significant damage to important vegetable crops. City gardeners also report damage to flowers and ornamental plants. Urban landscapers must plant pollution-resistant trees, notably locusts, along heavily traveled roads, but even these live only a fraction of their normal life span.”
p. 447 - “Acid deposition does not kill trees directly, according to the U.S. EPA. It is more likely to weaken them, by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them, or poisoning them with toxic substances slowly released into the soil. Weakened trees are more susceptible to diseases, insects, drought, and other pollutants such as ozone that ultimately kill them. Combined, these forces may be responsible for the massive reduction in forest growth noticed by foresters in the eastern United States. It reminds us how important it is to consider the interaction of many changes we have wrought.”
“Just like trees, crops are affected directly and indirectly by acids. The direct effects include damage to leaves and buds. Acids fallen on crop plants in the spring may impair growth at a very important time of year. In addition, acids may inhibit photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce carbohydrates and other important chemicals.”
“Acids damage plants indirectly - by altering the soil For example, they may leach important elements form the soil, resulting in reduced growth. Acids impair soil bacteria and fungi that play an important role in nutrient cycling and nitrogen fixation, both essential to normal plant growth.”
“Concern for agriculture has also been raised by numerous researchers, but the results of many studies are inconclusive. Some researchers have reported that simulated acid precipitation decreases crop productivity, but others have found increases. Still others have found no effect. On balance, the EPA concludes that food crops are not seriously affected by acid deposition.” [note: this is acid rain, not ozone. Ozone causes billions of dollars worth of lost yield annually.]
All of the trees that appear to be golden or orange are actually severely beaten up.
These are the leaves of that maple in the foreground:
I am dreading the winter. As the article above mentioned, Europe’s pollution is worsening partially because more people are burning wood, since fossil fuels are so expensive.
In the US, new EPA regulations for wood stoves to reduce emissions has some homeowners (even survivalist environmental types, ha!) furious about having to purchase new equipment that is in compliance.
It occurred to me this morning that the necessity for people to have heat in cold climates is in and of itself enough to cause disaster.
There are too many people, period, living in places where we couldn't live without burning something - and the pollution from heating with coal was already a disaster two hundred years ago.
There aren’t enough trees to last long if everyone used them for fuel, and fossil fuels, as we all know, are a finite resource.
I can only conclude that we were doomed as soon as we discovered fire, and that enabled us to migrate to inhospitable climates, to vanquish and conquer habitat where we had no business being, and basically, overrun the entire Earth.
Below is a zoom from this view of the Somerset Hills in the distance - most of the branches are bare.
Today, a fellow apocalypsitarian sent me the following rumination:
“Determinism is a modern name (coined
in the nineteenth century) for Democritus
’ ancient idea that causal deterministic laws control the motion of atoms, and that everything - including human minds - consists merely of atoms in a void.”
“As Democritus’ mentor and fellow materialist Leucippus put it, an absolute necessity
leaves no room in the cosmos for chance.
“Nothing occurs at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”
I don’t know if I would go that far, but I have to admit, I doubt there is anything that could have been done to prevent our eventual ecocide and extinction - and few things annoy me more than the hope addicts that seem incapable of understanding it is that very capacity for unfounded fantasy and belief in technological miracles that has led us to our present dire straits.
One of the funnier aspects of the woo-enchanted is that they often are convinced that indigenous people represent a more connected, sustainable path which, if only privileged white Europeans hadn’t imposed their evil capitalist culture, would be universal. I can’t think of anything more easily disproved and yet, like any true believers, evidence is no impediment to faith.
Just for fun I looked up
native American hunting methods and have to wonder how the romantics reconcile techniques like starting circular fires to initiate panicked stampedes of mammoths and later bison over cliffs, where much of the meat was wasted. The bow and arrow only came into use 1200 years ago and for millenia before that, techniques like the atlatl, spears, clubbing, and painful, crude deadfall trapping were employed to kill prey including bears, deer, elk, turkeys, bobcats, and mountain lions not to mention fish. Furthermore, as more efficient means for hunting arrived - horses and guns - they were eagerly adopted.
I left the golf course and drove along River Road through Bedminster towards the race grounds.
Those leaves close up:
This aerial view of the races was published in a marketing brochure in 2012, so it has to date from 2011 - and likely quite some time earlier. The next few are from the past as well, found on the web.
The rest of the photos are those I took on Sunday.
This funny mix of maple leaves hung from the steep banks above the little river that runs through Moorland Farms - the background is water reflecting the higher tree branches and sky.
Alas, most maple trees look like these:
While on the way home from the nursery, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview on NPR
with meteorologist Eric Holthaus. He gained a mild amount of notoriety - it’s hard for me to judge since I don’t often listen and never watch television - after he read the latest IPCC report and, realizing that travel was a large part of his carbon footprint, pledged never to fly again. After listening to his reasons for deciding to sacrifice the convenience of air travel, the host, Arun Rath, said:
"Well, I think for a lot of people, it almost feels kind of impossible. I mean, I would say even for myself, looking at my life the way it is, I can't imagine not having air travel."
His lack of imagination and smug fatalism so enraged me that I wanted desperately to reach through the vapor of the radio and throttle him. Instead, when I got home, I left the following comment:
Rath: “I can’t imagine not having air travel.”
haha!! Okay Rath - can you imagine not eating? Because if we continue on this path, most agricultural land is going to become too hot and dry to grow plants. Ultimately, since most arable land is at river deltas, it’s going to be salinated and then inundated by sea level rise. Can you imagine your children not eating? I can just hear you saying to them - “I couldn’t imagine not having air travel, so you can imagine food. Yes, we used to have food to eat.”