Category: Austria

Sunday set: Austria’s mountain farms

Alm journeys


This past summer, we spent several weeks exploring the world of Austrian Alms, high mountain pastures that are only grazed for a few months each summer. While we in the U.S. generally tend to prefer undisturbed mountain landscapes for their aesthetic and environmental values, these Austrian pastures have been grazed for centuries and even millennia. In the earliest days, as humans colonized the Alps after the last ice age, they had to use the higher slopes as forage areas because the valleys were still choked with glacial debris, wetlands and thick vegetation. That means the open meadows higher up were actually available for animal husbandry earlier than the lower elevations. In any case, the Alms now form an important part of the Alps’ ecological fabric, providing habitat for many wildflowers, including rare orchids, that wouldn’t thrive in a dark forest environment. Alms are also important to culture and recreation, as gathering points for hikers, and help ensure local food supplies. The first three in a series of grant-funded stories on this topic have been published at Pacific Standard, links below. Help support independent environmental journalism by visiting the stories and sharing them on your social media networks.

 

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Sunday set: Environmental journeys

Seeking knowledge …


I’ve been reporting on the environment for 21 years, so it’s not surprising that, even when I’m traveling on vacation, I tend to see nearly everything through a certain prism. That may be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It might be nice, every now and then, to completely tune out from the world’s problems and just live hedonistically. On the other hand, I feel like I can really connect with the people and places I’m seeing by understanding them in an environmental context. And in reality, I don’t really separate work and play all that much anymore. This past summer’s trek through the Austrian Alps to learn about climate change and sustainable mountain agriculture was a wonderful experience. Being a journalist gives me an excuse to exercise my curiosity. You can read about the environment and culture of the Austrian Alms here, and learn more about melting Arctic ice may affect you in this story

Sunday set: Mountain love

Go higher …


Time revisit a couple of favorite mountains scenes in the Summit Voice archives, and time to remember that global warming is going alter some mountain landscapes irrevocably, not it the far distant future, but within a few decades. For example, a new study shows how warming will alter basic soil chemistry by speeding up microbial activity and shifting the balance of key nutrients. This will displace some plants and probably eliminate others. And as much as we appreciate forested landscapes, climate change is driving the spread of tree-killing insects, as shown by the latest aerial survey of Colorado forests. Check out more environmental and nature photography from Summit Voice at our online gallery, or visit the Sunday Set archives.

Sunday set: New Year

Oh, snap!

Winter’s a bit late, but better late than never. We’ve compiled a few scenes from the first week of 2017, from Vienna to the Weinviertel. Click here to see more photography from Summit Voice, and visit our online gallery for a full selection of fine art landscape and nature photography.

Sunday set: Last days of autumn

Fading sun …

There’s a certain magic to the light in the last few days of fall. Here at 48 degrees north, the sun just doesn’t get very high above the horizon. Passing through the atmosphere at that low angle seems to warm the sun’s rays, so that even when the air is chilly, the light is saturated. No matter where you are, it’s a great time to go out and feel the rhythm of the seasons. Here in the lowlands of eastern Austria, that means long walks in the woods or vineyards, or in one of the extensive parks within the city limits of Vienna. Happy solstice!

Around the world with Summit Voice

Links to our climate and international news reporting …

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How much longer will the cryosphere last? @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Not as much content as usual on Summit Voice this week, but that’s because we were busy reporting elsewhere, with a few noteworthy stories. For example, Austria is holding a presidential election tomorrow (Sunday, Dec. 4) and the election of Donald Trump became an issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. I co-reported a story on the election with the European bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, including an interview with an American expat involved in the campaign.

Also published did a couple of pieces for Pacific Standard, including a photo essay on the Earth’s vanishing cryosphere, and an in-depth story about how the incoming Trump administration could undermine the integrity of science-based decision making in government agencies. Another article from a couple of weeks ago in Pacific Standard took a look at whether the world can still achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement if the U.S. withdraws.

And at InsideClimate News, I reported on potential climate change links to the devastating wildfires in the Southeast, as well as on a new study suggesting that heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution is shifting the track of Atlantic hurricanes to the north, where they are more likely to hit the Northeast coast.

I also took a close look at Germany’s ambitious new climate action plan, which aims to decarbonize the country’s economy by 2050. Absent U.S. leadership on climate policy, other major western industrial countries will have to lead by example.

Sunday set: Exploring Austria

Here and there …

Most of my photography focuses on natural landscapes, and I often try to set up and compose images to avoid human intrusion. That’s because I figure the human species has pretty much become a destructive parasite on the Earth, for the most part only taking, without giving anything back. But there are places where people live in harmony with their surroundings; where structures are built on a scale that doesn’t suggest dominance. I found a few places like that this summer while touring around Austria doing research for the Global Warming in the Alps project, for example the roadside farmhouse nestled into the hillside in the first image, or the Almtalerhaus, a mountain refuge and restaurant in the Salzkammergut lakes region of Upper Austria. As well, the Dachstein Lodge am Krippenstein is a rebuilt shelter that fits well on its mountaintop perch, rather than looming ostentatiously over the slopes like so many other new mountain lodges. We’re all going to have to try and live on a more human scale if we’re going to get serious about creating a sustainable future for our kids.