At the end of a long winter, it’s fun to daydream about hot summer days by the sea in the pleasing coastal towns of the Mediterranean. We especially enjoyed Varazze last July. The Italian harbor town isn’t particularly well known internationally, but it’s a favored getaway for residents of bustling Genoa and for yachties looking for a calmer alternative to Nice or Cannes. It is also, apparently, a surf hotspot in the winter season, as you can see in this YouTube video. We also saw some fine waves at Frejus during a summer tempest, and the paddler in the photo was enjoying the shorebreak. Check out more Summit Voice travel, nature and landscape photography in our Sunday Set archive, and visit our online gallery to buy prints and more — a great way to support our independent environmental journalism.
These goats seems to be well-trained. Even without a herder persent, they knew which way to go.
High mountain pastures are part of Austria’a agricultural tradition.
With snow in the forecast, sheepherders prepare to move their animals down to the valley.
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.
The Gjaidalm, at a Bronze Age grazing site in the Austrian Alps, now serves mainly as an outpost for hikers and also offers yoga classes and wellness retreats.
Global warming is radically changing the chemistry of mountain soils and some plants that rely on a specific combination of nutrients are unlikely to survive.
Wilderness as its understood in the U.S. is a relatively new concept in Austria, but resource manageres are determined to recreate wilderness in the remote mountain forests around the Dürrenstein.
Mountain pastures in Austria help ensure local food security.
Global sea ice has been at a record low extent for several months. This aerial shot of Greenland, taken from a commercial flight, shows a receding glacier along the east coast of Greenland.
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
5 countries now on notice face potential legal action
By Bob Berwyn
Five large EU countries are on warning after repeatedly failing to meet air pollution standards for nitrogen oxide, a precursor to smog and a serious health risk in and of itself. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Studies have shown that more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality, while millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year.
Because of the persistent breaches, the European Commission this week sent final warning to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, urging those countries to improve air quality and safeguard public health.
Full moon rising over the Mediterranean in a time exposure.
Blue boat dreams in the harbor of Varazze.
Ripening in the vineyards of Provence.
Lavender fields forever …
Revisiting the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy in this set, and dreaming about summer days to come. Visit the Summit Voice Sunday Set archive, and check out our online gallery for more landscape and nature photography.
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.
Liverworts are often among the very first flowers to bloom in the spring in the beech forests of Moravia.
Lone pine along the Thaya River.
Canyon of the Thaya.
Early spring is a very special time in the forest, as the ecosystem begins to stir after a long winter nap. Even though winter grasses and dry leaves dominate, it’s easy to feel the new life pushing toward the surface, called by the sun. These shots were taken in Thayatal National Park, on the border of Austria and Czechia. Visit our online gallery for more landscape and nature images, and check out all the past Sunday Set series in the Summit Voice archives.