Travel a little, learn a lot
Glaciers melting along the coast of Greenland.
A common bumblebee visits a garden in Vienna, Austria.
Sea level rise caused by global warming is going to wash away many popular beaches in Southern California.
The glaciers in the Hohe Tauern region of the Austrian Alps have receded by hundreds of feet in just the past few decades.
Firefighters standing in a snow berm extinguishing a small wildfire burning in March 2012 at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This is not normal.
This set includes illustrations for some of my most recent stories in various environmental and climate news publications and if you’re a regular Summit Voice reader who is not on Twitter or Instagram, I’m providing a few links here.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how some of Greenlands coastal glaciers already passed passed a climate change tipping point about 20 years ago. Because of the physical processes of snowmelt and runoff, these glaciers are going to disappear even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately. You can read the story here.
For Pacific Standard, I put together an environmental photo essay on bumblebees, some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, especially in mountain regions and also in the far north. Bumblebees are important because they are cold-tolerant, so they’re out and about visiting early blooms while other pollinators are dormant. They’ll also fly long distances to visit a single flower. Without them, some species would go extinct. Check out the photo essay here.
You might have seen the recent Summit Voice story on beach erosion and how it’s going to wash away some world famous surf spots along the California coast, and in other areas where coastal strands are ringed by mountains, but if you missed it, you can see it here.
I also wrote about the annual Austrian glacier report for Deutsche Welle, a great global news organization that really does in-depth environmental and climate reporting. You can visit the DW website here, or follow them on Twitter for a daily feed. And my story on the dwindling glaciers is here.
Finally, in a critical story for Colorado and the rest of the West, I reported on how we are losing the war on wildfires and how we need to change our way of thinking about forests and fires in an era of rapid climate change. The story is online at Pacific Standard.
Out and about …
Trees abloom in Lower Austria.
The Erlauf River.
Nothing says Easter like a visit to the country to check out trees bursting into bloom and other signs of nature’s spring resurgence. It’s a good reminder that when you strip away the bizarre Christian mythology surrounding this holiday, what you have left is a good old-fashioned pagan celebration of life. And nothing could be more glorious than that because it’s the life-force of nature that’s at the basis of our reality, not some musty legends handed down over generations by a secretive theocractic organization.
City sights …
Down on the corner …
A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life. Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows
, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River
, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.
An Alm outpost along the Grossglockner Strasse.
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.
Seeking knowledge …
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
Go higher …
Hohe Tauern, Austria.
Continental Divide, Colorado.
Autumn light, Colorado.
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
Snowfall starts around the Stephansdom in Vienna.
New Years Day in the wine country of Lower Austria.
Lantern plant, gone to seed.
Frost groweth …
Together, we are strong!
Kite flying, Boxing Day.
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.