Sunday, April 6, 2014

Florida Eschaton

A bird eyes a view of Miami from nearby Fairchild Gardens
“It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing high intelligence this is not correct. We have, or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only.”

~ Sir Fred Hoyle, Of Men and Galaxies, 1964

It came as no small surprise to find that, by happenstance, I have spent this entire endless winter, while anticipating ecopocalypse, enjoying inexcusably perfect balmy weather.  Here in Palm Beach, dressed in sunlight, embalmed in a pleasantly subdued state of perpetual anxiety, I have taken to bicycling along the trail at the water’s edge of Lake Worth.
In Victorian days, cruising along the same trail in wheelchairs was wildly popular recreation.
It is only a few scant minutes to the former home of Florida oil, rail and real estate tycoon Henry W. Flagler.  After an ignominious stint as a hotel, the 10-story addition was demolished and it is now open to the public, as The Flagler Museum.
Of course, eventually the topic of this post will get around to trees dying from air pollution, since that is the purpose of this blog.
Certainly,  a leaf anywhere in Florida could serve as the poster child of damage from ozone.
But first I thought, since Im here, it might be fun to take a look at Henry – his fortune and his exploits.  With pictures!  …some from the preposterous Worth Avenue Annual Puppy Show, because it was so droll -
...and others, from the Palm Beach International Boat Show extravaganza which took place directly across the inter-coastal, where over a billion dollar’s worth of boats were on view to prospective buyers...because it is obscene.  This is the view of the line up from the trail to the Flagler Museum.
Along the street, large standing maps of the show towered over the visitors on the sidewalks, which were crowded with vendors and temporary pubs.
 To get to the event, I walked from the island over the drawbridge to West Palm (when it was down).  I have the idea that the denizens of Palm Beach will be using them to keep out the pitchfork-wielding rabble when TSHTF.
But so far from this placid vantage only the spectacularly morbid (you know who you are!) would suspect anything is amiss.  Here is a view of the show from the top of the bridge:
Yachting has long been a favored pastime for the wealthy.  This painting by William G. Yorke depicts the Americas Cup champion Columbia, which was purchased by Henry Flagler (the boat, not the painting) in 1881.  It looks so quaintly antique, doesn’t it?
The winner of the first race, in 1851,  became its namesake - the yacht America.  Below is detail of an exact silver replica of the Americas Cup trophy.  Guess who owns it!  Who else?  William I. Koch.  When you are a billionaire, if you can’t win it, you can always just buy it instead.
By the time 1890 rolled around and technology had advanced, Henry had purchased this custom built 160 steam yacht. much better.
No doubt, at the time Henry saw the addition of steam, which greatly enhanced the maneuverability and locomotion, as a huge benefit.  Then as now, guys love those giant engines.  In fact, there was a preponderance of white guys at the show.
In order to board the biggest yachts (which are unimaginably enormous),
you are required to register with a broker, and convince him you have the credentials to potentially purchase one.
There were dozens of carpeted canvas tents like this one, set on the docks, staffed by pretty female receptionists dispensing champagne, where salesmen in dark glasses hovered, waiting for deep pockets.
I managed to talk myself into tours with ease, since I had my camera and introduced myself as a freelance photographer”, why not?

This three-masted ship was by no means the largest, but it was one of the very few that had the ability to sail as well as motor.
It is owned by a man from China.  This is the master suite:
Immediately before you can enter it though, you have to go past the bodyguardss room - which is amazing considering that, on even the largest yacht, space is at a premium.  To devote an entire room to a full-time bodyguard seems like shades of the coming unstable future where even the oligarchs will be so paranoid they will want constant protection, even out at sea.

Above deck, everything is so meticulously maintained it looks brand-new, even though it was custom-built in 2009.

The electronics at the helm are daunting.

A crew of seven brought it to this market, from Hong Kong.

Here is the name of the ship, in case you want to buy it.

And no, I have no idea what it costs!  (But this article has pictures of a 40-meter yacht listed at $21.5 million.)

Next, I talked my way onto a particularly tall yacht.

I chose the Inevitable because I like the name, and I wanted to get as high as possible to survey the area from above.

I can only marvel that there are enough wealthy people in the world to support this many useless toys.  To me it is frightening, because it emblematic of a system that is impossible to maintain, so paradoxically fragile, and so heedless of its dependence on dwindling natural resources.

I didnt notice the hot tub until I downloaded the pictures.
So let us go back in a more serene, or at least simpler time - the era when Henry Flagler embarked on his career...when the world was on the brink of momentous, unprecedented change, when sailing ships would next turn rapidly into huge steamers, horses were rendered obsolete because of cars, and the world lost any semblance of the natural landscape, irretrievably.
Some of the history recounted below is to be found in Madness Under the Royal Palms:  Love and Death behind the Gates of Palm Beach by Laurence Leamer, and some from Oil Swells, published by The New York Social Diary.
Henry was both one of the first to hasten in the modern era of fossil fuels, and one of its greatest beneficiaries.  Whether due to dumb luck or uncanny shrewdness, his meteoric rise began when he became one of the founders and first partner with John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil.  The company, pioneering clever and ruthless market manipulation, came to monopolize oil refining in the United States by 1892.
The corruption was so pervasive that in 1911 the Supreme Court ordered restructuring, and it was dissolved into 38 companies.  Cartoons of the time anticipated Matt Taibbi’s famous Goldman Sachs Vampire Squid by more than a century.
“Money-mad, money-mad! Sane in every other way, but money-mad.”Senator Marcus A. Hanna’s 1904 characterization of John D. Rockefeller from The History of Standard Oil, by Ida Minerva Tarbell. [from Oil Swells]
But that was only the beginning for Henry, who was born in 1830, in upstate New York, and never received formal education beyond the 8th grade.  He did, however, have family money and connections, which he used to invest in Rockefeller’s oil refinery business in Ohio.
His major impact derived from his choice to use his fortune in Standard Oil stocks to promote and develop the state of Florida.  He became a hotel magnate and began purchasing and consolidating small railroads to provide access to what he envisaged as an American Riviera.
Ponce de Leon Hotel, 1900
While a lesser luminary in the national annals of the Gilded Age than his better-known contemporaries such as Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, Flagler looms large in Florida.  His influence on the development can hardly be exaggerated, and in tribute the region abounds with Flagler namesakes - boulevards and beaches, hospitals and churches and schools - even Miami narrowly missed being named after Flagler when, struck by uncharacteristic modesty, he demurred in favor of a name with Native American provenance.
In 1888, he opened the 540-room Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine.  It went wildly over budget, with the additional rare extravagance of electricity, one of the first buildings in the country to have it, thanks to his personal friendship with Thomas Edison.
Eventually he extended his empire down the east coast to Miami, whereupon in 1905 he commenced construction of what came to be known as “Flagler’s Folly”.  The Florida Overseas Railroad was pummeled by storms even as it was being built, one of which killed hundreds of men in 1906 (a minor blip in progress that is glossed over in the paeans to the founder of Palm Beach), and was not completed until 1912. By then his health was failing so work was accelerated.
Upon completion, Henry and his wife arrived for a celebration of his 82nd birthday - and the arrival of the first train ever to make the entire journey to Key West.  Weak and nearly blind, met by thousands grateful for the link to the rest of the world, Henry delivered a teary speech.  He didn’t manage it single-handedly, but there is no question that Flagler was responsible more than any other person for turning Florida from a sleepy wilderness into a major tourist mecca.  When I looked at this crowd, deliriously overjoyed to greet the mobility and freedom granted by fossil fuels and industrial civilization, I couldnt help but compare this enthusiastic throng to the pathetically minuscule groups that turn out in Washington to protest the end of a habitable climate.  In all the demonstrations I have been to, I have yet to see one single person scale a roof.
The tiny white arrow in the lower left is pointing to Henry's feet as he walks through the throngs.  Such straw boater hats (and accessory dogs) are still de rigueur in Palm Beach today.

Here is how one historian describes the celebration of what was somewhat hyperbolically dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World:
The scene was awash in an ocean of American flags and bunting with the Florida East Coast Railway's colors of yellow and red predominating. The international media, celebrities and foreign diginitaries were all there and by 10:00 AM every spot on the grounds was taken.
With the roar of bursting bombs, the playing of the bands, the shrill screeches of whistles, the cheering of thousands of people, the first through train over the Over-Sea Railway, bearing Henry & Mrs. Flagler and officials of the FECRwy, pulls into Key West precisely at 10:43 A.M.

The crowd started to gather before the sky had begun to lighten. Young and old, sailors and civilians, rich and poor­ they came on foot or by carriage down the new road angling off Caroline Street to Trumbo Point. They were there to see a train arrive­ the first into Key West and the first one many in the crowd had seen in their lifetime.
Shortly after 10:30, the sound of a whistle could be heard as the train chugged across the Old East Channel from Stock Island and headed into Key West. Within minutes, the train took a jog to the right and headed across landfill and a drawbridge onto Trumbo Point and, at 10:43 a.m., pulled into the station. That signaled the start of the greatest celebration ever held in Key West.
The Light Guard Band and the Cuban Military Band had been taking turns providing the music all morning and, as the train pulled into view, struck up a suitable fanfare. The 80th Company Coast Artillery, the Key West Guard and the Naval Militia were providing crowd control­ with an honor guard decked out in white uniforms lining both sides of the track.
The noise was deafening as the largest crowd ever assembled in Key West cheered the momentous occasion. They were all there to see and honor one man­ Henry M. Flagler, the businessman benefactor of the Florida East Coast Railway.
The Over-Seas Special was directly behind, carrying the President's official Representative, Assistant Secretary of War General Robert Shaw Oliver. Also on board were US Senators and Representatives, members of the House Committees on Military Affairs, on Naval Affairs, and on Rivers and Harbors, plus Army and Navy commanders and Official Representatives of France, Italy and Brazil.
The third train to pull in carried railroad executives, including members of the Chattanooga Board of Trade and delegations from Jacksonville and Miami­ their presence emphasizing the importance of trade via railway to the economy of 1912. In all, seven trains pulled into Key West that day.
As the eighty-two-year-old Flagler stepped down from the observation platform at the back of the train, he said to his aide, “Now I can die fulfilled,” and stepped forward to clasp the hand of Key West Mayor Dr. Joseph N. Fogarty.
The two men walked to a reviewing stand, passing by a Children's Chorus of close to a thousand Keys schoolchildren throwing rose petals into their path. There were presentations to Flagler by the President of the Chamber of Commerce and by several local committees­ and it was all caught on film by John Frawley for the Lubin Manufacturing Company.
By noon, all had adjourned to the Jefferson Hotel in the 100 block of Duval and then across the street to the Elks Club at #117 for a public reception­ just the first in a whirlwind of parties and events, both public and private, to celebrate the greatest day of all in Key West history.
The last vestiges of a functional railroad were destroyed by a 1935 Labor Day hurricane.  Did anyone, anyone at all in that jubilant crowd, wonder if something billowing so much black smoke was really a good idea?
Postcard, 1920
One can only imagine the unbridled exhilaration that must have intoxicated those early discoverers of the seductive power of fossil fuels…when they realized they could harness such immense abilities beyond anything ever imagined before the advent of mechanized engines.  Was Henry an evil man?  Was there some moment when he should have paused, and reconsidered?  Could he, should he have spurned the great wealth that was conferred upon him, that has carried on to his descendants?  He and his cohorts were the quintessential, prototypical capitalists...and we see their legacy in those that emulate them today.
The New York Social Diary, a decorously venomous chronicle of the rich and overindulged, observes:

As much today as it was yesterday, Palm Beach is an incomparable offshore social conglomerate where bluebloods, barons and tycoons alike take refuge from the mainland’s more accountable and less luxuriant ambiance.
And, just as the island’s secretive private clubs bask in the allure of being as impregnable to outsiders as they were when Old Guard cliques created them, there was, perhaps, no more eminent or scrutinized Gilded Age social set that found refuge within Henry Flagler’s Florida resort empire than his own Standard Oil Company’s trustees.
More than a century later, descendants of Standard Oil’s inner circle can still be found behind the walls of Palm Beach’s ficus hedges.
The Standard crowd

During the winter of 1888, as private Pullman cars pulled out of New York heading to St. Augustine for the opening of Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel, Albany legislators and Washington congressional committees launched investigations into the Standard Oil Trust, eventually resulting more than a decade later in the Supreme Court’s directive breaking up and reforming the company.
Despite pesky subpoenas and warrants, annoying court and congressional hearings, the Standard Oil cartel’s most prominent trustees escaped the glare from headlines and indictments within several socially-exclusive Gibraltars — Thomasville’s plantations, the Jekyll Island Club’s hunting preserves, St. Augustine’s tea dances and Palm Beach’s jungle trails. Rather than being probed and questioned about the inner sanctum of the world’s most powerful syndicate or denounced by muckrakers, Euclid Avenue and Fifth Avenue moguls engaged in quail hunts and golf games.
In 1890, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The wonder of the century is the growth of the fortunes of the Standard Oil crowd, as they are known the Rockefellers, the Flaglers and their associates …” The New York Times described Standard’s elite more simply “…the most powerful, the most resourceful and the most daring combination of capitalists the country has ever known.”
As yesterday’s tightfisted corporate villains transformed themselves into charitable philanthropists and reviled robber barons were newly-christened as revered patrons, Henry Flagler reinvented himself from one of the nation’s oil slicks into Florida’s patron saint. With no experience as a real estate developer but with a Ph.D. in creating oil and railroad monopolies, Flagler converted Florida’s East Coast into a packaged resort network while turning Palm Beach’s jungled lakefront into an international destination.
Royal Poinciana Hotel, Palm Beach
Opened in 1894, The Royal Poinciana made Palm Beach an international destination.   The six-story Colonial-style resort attained unrivaled success, rapidly expanding into the world’s largest wooden structure.
With accommodations for more than 1,200 guests extending seven blocks, the resort afforded golf, tennis, canasta, yachting or a soiree at the Palm Beach Gun Club, the hotel’s lush tea garden, the Cocoanut Grove became the island’s social center offering afternoon outdoor dancing.
It certainly is not unusual for a man of such financial acumen, with an appetite for power and influence, to have a less-than-conventional personal life, although in the laudatory biographies of Henry Flagler, he is usually presented as a blameless gallant.  Following is the saga of his three wives - you decide.

In 1853 Mary Harkness, a step-cousin, became his first wife (and her family money, the source of his initial capital) and was the mother of his only children.  By 1876 she was very ill from tuberculosis, so for her health they spent much of the next five years traveling to Jacksonville, Florida.  Their 28-year marriage ended with her death in 1881, whereupon Flagler promptly married her nurse, Ida Alice Shourds.
Henry’s only son was so outraged and embarrassed when his father married a lower class woman 18 years his junior, that he moved to New York where, like his latter-day counterparts the Koch brothers, he enhanced his social status as a benefactor of the arts - in his case, the Philharmonic.
He remained estranged from his father for the rest of their lives, returning only briefly to Florida, for the funeral.  Ida Alice, meanwhile, adapted quickly to a life of luxury, although disapproving of what was described as Henry’s “wandering eye”.  Perhaps there was a reason a notoriously rambling man would name his private railroad car, “The Rambler”?
Nana and Doc walk past The Rambler, now enshrined in a replica of a period railway station at the Flagler Museum.  The railway car was finished with satinwood and mahogany trim, the Empire ceilings embellished with gold leaf.
And who knows if this is why Ida succumbed to “..mood swings, her preoccupation with Ouija boards and a deepening delusion that she was actually married to the czar of Russia”?
In any event, Flagler persuaded a physician friend to opine that Ida, at age 51, was mentally ill.  As a result, she was institutionalized and remained in a private sanitarium in Central Valley, New York for the rest of her life, having been declared legally insane on March 23, 1897.  It was alleged she attacked her doctor with scissors.  Was she really crazy, or was she, having committed no crime, trying to escape unjust incarceration?  Could she perhaps have had a problem with what the Flagler museum literature delicately refers to as “a family friend”?
Following her confinement it took some time but eventually, in 1901, Henry’s vast influence persuaded the Florida Legislature to pass a law making incurable insanity grounds for divorce.  He swiftly applied for the dissolution of his marriage to Ida, and was the only person ever to take advantage of the ruling before it was repealed a few years later.   Even more swiftly, he wedded the “family friend” who had been lurking, “Gaslight” style, around the margins of his marriage for several years.
A contemporary version of the scandal, slightly less sanitized than what the museum presents, was written up in the San Francisco Call, on August 25, 1901:
Divorce From Insane Wife.
About a week ago Henry M. Flagler secured a divorce in Florida from his second wife, who had been an inmate of an insane asylum for several years. His third marriage following so closely after the divorce causes considerable comment.
Edward C. Foote, the agent of an office building in New York City, recently sued Henry M. Flagler for $100,000 damages, alleging that by his attentions and liberal presents of money Flagler has won the affections of Mrs. Foote. The complainant alleged that Flagler has given his wife shares in the Standard Oil Company to the value of $400,000, and that it was in consideration of this that she discarded Foote.
It appears that Mrs. Foote was merely a footnote, even though her husband documented with papers and affidavits that Flagler had maintained her in an apartment in New York City from December 1896 to June 1897 – and there were apparently, several other mistresses before, during and after his infidelity with the special “family friend” became legally legitimized.
Back in January of 1891, while cruising in the Caribbean on a friend’s yacht, Henry at age 61 had already met the 23 year old woman who was to become his third wife.  Shortly afterwards, he dispatched a train with one of his private cars, the Arcadia, to North Carolina to bring Mary Lily, who was less than half his age, along with a bevy of friends to St. Augustine for a ball held at his hotel, the luxurious Ponce de Leon.
Rumors of their affair persisted for years in advance of their marriage in 1901 and it is thus highly dubious that, as a fawning biography posted on PBS claims, poor Henry was “…almost prostrated with grief and anxiety…” over his wife’s illness during any of this period.  [Is this indicative of the level of journalistic integrity at PBS?]
Ever extravagant, Henry gave his wife the most expensive (in relative dollars) piece of jewelry ever purchased from Tiffany’s – a five-foot rope of perfectly matched, enormous natural pearls (natural!  They hadnt invented cultured pearls yet!) with a 15-carat diamond clasp, which she wears in this portrait.
He also, in the grandest Taj Mahal style, completed in a mere 18 months the construction of the exquisitely appointed 60,000 square foot, 55-room beaux arts mansion in time for a gift for his bride in 1902.  Whitehall, surrounded by an elaborate iron fence, was designed by the New York-based firm of Carrère and Hastings, architects of the New York Public Library.
As intended, it became the mecca of the high society winter season, where they hosted the first Palm Beach Bal Poudré in 1903, described in the press of the day as “one of the most sumptuous social affairs ever attempted south of Washington”.
The theme reflected the fashionable obsession with both George Washington and Marie Antoinette.  Eager to mimic this inexplicable pairing (unless you read Chomsky), the folks in Palm Beach, not to be outdone, resurrected the event in February last year with innocent joie de vivre.
Although Mary had to tolerate her husband’s amorous escapades both before and during their marriage, she appeared to quite enjoy entertaining.  The aging Henry, however, would usually leave early via a discreetly hidden staircase while the youngster generation continued to party into the early mornings.  That was the same staircase down which he fell that led to his death at 83, leaving Mary, at age 45, the richest woman in America, worth over one hundred million dollars.
But karma is a notorious bitch, and shortly after Mary returned to her birthplace in North Carolina, she married an old friend.  (Another "friend”?)   Robert Worth Bingham, a Kentucky politician used her money to purchase the Louisville Courier-Journal.  Although he signed a prenuptial agreement, relinquishing any claim to the Flagler fortune in the event Mary predeceased him, she soon added a codicil to her will granting him $5 million.  Within eight months of her marriage, one month after she changed her will, she was dead.
With murder suspected, rumors flew about an accidental overdose of laudanum, but the results of an autopsy requested by her family were never released.  Most of her fortune went to her siblings, while a large portion of Henry’s had been left to a “niece” who may have been his child born out of wedlock.  Relatives of second wife crazy Alice Ida, who outlived him by 17 years until the age of 82, spent considerable time squabbling in court over what remained of the $2 million estate he left for her care.
"Jean Flagler Matthews inherited her first $1 million in Standard Oil stock at the age of three, after her grandfather Henry M. Flagler died in 1913. Four decades later, she led the campaign to restore Whitehall."  source
Clouds were gathering by the time I was ready to leave the yacht show, and I guess now is a good time to talk about ozone, and trees.
I went to Fairchild Gardens, a 70 year old botanical park in Miami with hundreds of varieties of palms, where the leaves are in horrible shape, yellow even in the beginning of spring.
They fall, dead, to the ground.
Following is a short excerpt from a research paper published August 2012, Ozone Injury to Forests Across the Northeast and North Central United States, 1994 - 2010 [emphasis added].  The pictures are from Fairchild, where they have a fantastic butterfly exhibit.  The pictures are leaves from INSIDE the conservatory - so, the damaged foliage isn’t due to acid rain, or lack of precipitation, or climate change.  If anything, it is all the more remarkable that the leaves are in such poor condition given that the staff no doubt fertilize and control pests, and try to remove anything unsightly - now, in order to maintain unblemished foliage, they would have to remove it ALL.
cocoa leaves
Its important too that inside the tropical conservatory, leaves of all cocoa and coffee plants are also badly damaged - so despite all the press reports about declining productivity of those important crops attributing it to climate change, there is clearly something else to blame.  Oh well - air pollution isn't considered in any recent warnings about threats to everything from limes to baseball bats to the dreaded bananapocalypse. AAAUUUUUGHHHH!   The first leaves pictured below in a group of four are from the paper, indicating symptoms of ozone injury on various species. 
Ozone injury, clockwise from top left:
 Maple, photo by Robert L. Anderson, U.S. Forest Service,
 Yellow-poplar, photo by U.S. Forest Service, Region 8,
 Black cherry, photo by Tim Tigner, Virginia Department of Forestry,
 Blackberry, photo by Robert L. Anderson, U.S. Forest Service,

Ozone is a highly toxic air contaminant that has been shown to decrease tree growth and cause significant disturbance to forested ecosystems. Ozone also causes distinct foliar injury symptoms to certain species (bioindicator plants) that can be used to detect and monitor ozone stress (biomonitoring) in the forest environment.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, developed and implemented a suite of forest health indicators to respond to emerging demands for a comprehensive assessment of the health of U.S. forests. This report focuses on the states in the Northern Research Station-Forest Inventory and Analysis region, which has the longest record of ozone biomonitoring in the country, from 1994 through 2010.
p. 35  The projected result for forest areas around the globe is a reduction in the magnitude of peak ozone exposure accompanied by an increase in long-term chronic exposure. Long-range transport of polluted air masses on the local scale from urban to rural areas, and on the global scale from Asia to North America and from North America to Europe, also contributes to higher background concentrations.
In conclusion, the results of 17 years of ozone injury detection provide indisputable evidence that ozone-induced foliar injury symptoms occur routinely on ozone-sensitive bioindicator plants across much of the forested landscape of the NC and NE States, and in areas previously thought to be relatively ozone free.
The EPA has released another draft review of the scientific research about ozone harming vegetation, using a methodology that is so upside down I have taken up yoga to decipher it.  The authors appear to have used some assumptions to quantify the monetary losses from damage done to trees, parks, and agricultural crops.  Without revealing what those parameters are (I think), they extrapolated from those losses to compare potential financial savings were ambient levels of ozone to meet the current standards (which they often do not) to meeting hypothetical proposed stricter standards.
It is a puzzling document to me because it appears to present data sort of backwards - as in, what would be saved by meeting current ozone standards compared to what extra would be saved by meeting stricter standards, rather than stating directly what IS currently being lost.  It has been suggested to me by an EPA insider that, like many such government regulatory documents, it is deliberately made to be as obtuse as possible, especially to the public.
So perhaps I shouldn’t feel too stupid that I don't understand how exactly they arrived at their conclusions, or even exactly what their conclusion is - I think, it is basically that the largest savings in financial losses would be made by meeting the current standards, and only marginally greater gains would be achieved by reaching the stricter proposed new therefore there is no compelling reason to enact stricter standards...but I could be parsing it all wrong.
Leaving the financial quantification aside, what is fascinating despite the turgid prose is the astonishing broad range of effects that underlie the assumptions in the report, which stand starkly in contrast to the hedging found in many less comprehensive publications.  For instance, as far as I know, I am the only person who has made a link between ozone and the bark beetle epidemic in the western US and British Columbia (and have been ignored or ridiculed for doing so). I have only seen scientists attribute tree death from bark beetle to warmer temperatures, with the exception of southern California  (see the research by Bytnerowitz, which I have posted before).  Given the more recent spread of bark beetles all the way down to Texas and across to the Southeast US, the lack of extended below-freezing temperatures is becoming ever less convincing as the underlying cause of the bark beetle devastation.

This extensive assessment even includes contributions from ozone damage to wildfires, another crucial issue that I have never seen before - as well as timber production and streamflow.  In fact, the assessment is so extensive, it encompasses critical aspects of the entire ecosystem.  In the aggregate, you could easily interpret it as describing how the web of life is unraveling...although it stops short of saying so.

Following are some of the pertinent, less obfuscated excerpts from February, 2014 report.

Welfare Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone 
Second External Review Draft 
Executive Summary 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
Office of Air and Radiation 
Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards 
Health and Environmental Impacts Division 
Risk and Benefits Group 
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711


The goals for this welfare risk and exposure assessment (REA) include (i) characterizing ambient ozone (O3) exposure and its relationship to ecological effects, and (ii) estimating the resulting impacts to several ecosystem services. We quantitatively characterize the impact of ambient O3 exposures on two important ecological effects – biomass loss and visible foliar injury – and quantitatively estimate impacts to the following ecosystem services: regulating services including carbon sequestration and pollution removal; provisioning services including timber production and agricultural harvesting; and cultural services such as recreation.
We conduct both national-scale and case study analyses for these two ecological effects, and we also qualitatively assess impacts on additional ecosystem services, including hydrologic cycle, pollination regulation, and fire regulation (regulating services); commercial non-timber forest products and insect damage (provisioning services); and aesthetic and non-use values (cultural services).  For each of these analyses, we use a biologically-relevant cumulative, seasonal form for O3 exposure, the W126 metric, which is measured as ppm-hrs.

…Small losses for trees on a yearly basis compound over time and can result in substantial biomass losses over the decades-long lifespan of a tree.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a review of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for O3 and related photochemical oxidants. This draft welfare REA focuses on assessments to inform consideration of the review of the secondary (welfare-based) NAAQS for O3. This draft REA, which is the second draft for this NAAQS review, provides an assessment of exposure and risk associated with recent ambient concentrations of O3 and potential secondary standards.
QUANTIFYING ecosystem services values for the public welfare

To assess foliar injury at a national scale and identify potential benchmarks, we applied a national dataset on foliar injury from the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Forest Health Monitoring Network, which monitors the potential impacts of O3 on our nation’s forests. Our analyses provide results using both the presence/absence of foliar injury and elevated levels foliar injury. We also conduct analyses across years and different soil moisture categories. Over 81 percent of biosites in USFS’s data set showed no visible foliar injury.
p. 5  Ecosystem Services Affected by Biomass Loss

Ecosystem services most directly affected by biomass loss include: (1) provision of food and fiber (provisioning), (2) carbon storage (regulating), (3) pollution removal (regulating), and (4) habitat provision for wildlife, particularly habitat for threatened or endangered wildlife (supporting).
p. 6  Using the Forest and Agricultural Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gases (FASOMGHG), we quantify the effects of biomass loss on timber production, agricultural harvesting, and carbon sequestration in a national-scale analysis.”  [how is that for a ridiculously convoluted acronym!]
p. 9  We qualitatively describe the potential effects of O3 on other (non-timber) forest products that are harvested for commercial or subsistence activities, including edible fruits, nuts, berries, and sap; foliage, needles, boughs, and bark; grass, hay, alfalfa, and forage; herbs and medicinals; fuelwood, posts and poles; and Christmas trees.
According to the ISA, O3 exposure causes biomass loss in sensitive woody and herbaceous species, which in turn could affect forest products used for arts, crafts, and florals. For example, Douglas Fir and Red Alder, among others, are used on the Pacific Coast for arts and crafts, particularly holiday crafts and decorations. Foliar injury impacts on O3-sensitive plants would potentially affect the harvest of leaves, needles, and flowers from these plants for decorative uses. The visible injury and early senescence caused by O3 in some evergreens may also reduce the value of a whole tree such as Christmas trees. Likewise, O3 can reduce the harvest of edible fruits, nuts, berries, and sap in O3-sensitive plants. 
Ecosystem Services Affected by Visible Foliar Injury

The ecosystem services most likely to be affected by O3-induced visible foliar injury are aesthetic value and outdoor recreation (cultural services), which depend on the perceived scenic beauty of the environment. Studies of Americans’ perception of scenic beauty show that people tend to have reliable preferences for forests and vegetation with fewer damaged or dead trees and plants. Many outdoor recreation activities directly depend on the scenic value of the area, in particular scenic viewing, wildlife watching, hiking, and camping. These activities are enjoyed by millions of Americans every year and generate millions of dollars in economic value.
Recreation and the Environment

Some of the most popular outdoor activities are walking, including day hiking and backpacking; camping; bird watching; wildlife watching; and nature viewing. Total expenditures across wildlife watching activities, trail-based activities, and camp-based activities are approximately $200 billion dollars annually. 
p. 11  Regulating services include air quality, water  quantity and quality, climate, erosion, fire regulation, and pollination regulation. Regulation of the water cycle can be adversely affected by the effects of O3 on plants.  Studies of O3-impacted forests in eastern Tennessee in or near the Great Smoky Mountains has shown that ambient O3 exposures resulted in increased water use in O3-sensitive species, which led to decreased modeled late-season stream flow in those watersheds.
Ecosystem services potentially affected by such a loss in stream flow could include habitat for species (e.g., trout) that depend on an optimum stream flow or temperature.  Additional downstream effects could potentially include a reduction in the quantity and/or quality of water available for irrigation or drinking and for recreational use…
Fire regime regulation is also negatively affected by O3 exposure. For example, O3 exposure may contribute to forest susceptibility to wildfires in southern California by increasing leaf turnover rates and litter, increasing fuel loads on the forest floor…
p. 12  O3 exposure results in increased susceptibility to infestation by some chewing insects, including the southern pine beetle and western bark beetle. These infestations can cause economically significant damage to tree stands and the associated timber production (provisioning service). In the short-term, the immediate increase in timber supply that results from the additional harvesting of damaged timber depresses prices for timber and benefits consumers. In the longer-term, the decrease in timber available for harvest raises timber prices, potentially benefitting producers.

We estimate that some exposures and risks remain after just meeting the existing standard and that in many cases, just meeting potential alternative standard levels results in reductions in those exposures and risks. Overall, the largest reduction in O3 exposure-related welfare risk occurs when moving from recent ambient conditions to just meet the existing secondary standard of 75 ppb.
I noted with relief that the fabulously huge kapok tree adjacent to the museum, with lizardly serpentine roots that are taller than people, has leafed out.
Many others are not so reassuring.
 These examples are typical of the thinning crowns in the area.
Yesterday was the last dressage show of the season for first daughter, so she will be bringing the horses back to New Jersey soon...and you remember what that means for Moi, dont you, Ozonists and Ozonistas!?
YES!!  ...another ROAD TRIP to bring her car rocketship home!  Now if only I can avoid another speeding ticket in Virginia...
Soon, it will be goodbye to Nick and Johnnies tiny, crispy, scrumptious lobster and tuna sushi tacos...
...goodbye funny alligator rescuers...
...goodbye peaceful Loxahatchee farm...
...goodbye Palm Beach...and soon - hello end times.
On Friday April 4, I was interviewed on (!) Paranormal Radio, speaking with Heather Garrish and JasonWilson about trees and ozone.
It is two hours long, so if you plan on listening, save it for when you have a big stack of dishes to wash (just click on the arrow at the top of this link.)  Thanks, Heather and Jason!!

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