A refinery and wetlands near Myrtle Grove, La. Credit Jeff Riedel for The New York Times
In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.
Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.
The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.
The PATH was crowded this morning.
For a moment the MYTHS seemed solid.
Between the REALITY and the ILLUSION falls the …….
Coming late in a new book by Sam Harris called Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, this passage snapped me to attention. It’s not that Harris’s book had lulled me up to that point: It’s a provocative, informative and, at times, infuriating look at consciousness and the self. Its main argument is that techniques exist, meditation prime among them, to reduce human suffering by helping us to understand that the self — as conventionally understood — is an illusion. Our feeling of “I” is a product of thought, and thoughts merely come and go in our consciousness; there’s no self behind our eyes or in our head and when we grasp this, it’s easier to unmoor ourselves from the sources of suffering in our lives.
The ways in which Harris supports this thesis are worth reading. Yet as a parent of a college-age daughter, I found that it was his move beyond meditation — Harris’s expressed hope that his kids, once they become adults, will ingest psychedelics — that made me stop and think hard. Is Harris’s wish an ethical one? What can my field of anthropology bring to bear in thinking about this matter?
On this topic of psychedelics, Harris has an advantage that I lack. Not only has he spent considerable time in serious meditative practice, he also has experienced moments of immense beauty and love — and other moments of total terror — on MDMA (ecstasy), psilocybin (mushrooms) and LSD. I grew up in the ’60s in a family whose lives centered closely on law enforcement — my father was a captain in the New Jersey State Police — and I wasn’t exactly the drug-experimenting type. In high school and college, I watched a few friends go through trips good and bad, but that’s as close as I got.
Harris is candid about the risks of ingesting psychedelics:
“There is no getting around the role of luck here. If you are lucky, and you take the right drug, you will know what it is to be enlightened (or to be close enough to persuade you that enlightenment is possible). If you are unlucky, you will know what it is to be clinically insane.”
Harris describes one LSD trip as plunging him into “a continuous shattering and terror for which I have no words.”
Some readers, Harris notes at the outset, may want to consult their mental-health professionals before carrying out any of the ideas he endorses (including meditation), and he concludes that after expanding one’s consciousness through drugs “it seems wise” to find other practices that “do not present the same risks.”
So how should we think about the psychedelic-ingestion experience in connection with a search for enlightenment? Research in neuroscience certainly shows real change in the brain from the action of psychedelic drugs. But I don’t think it’s enough to say that the outcome of any given trip is a matter of which drug one ingests — and of individual luck.
Melbourne visitors and residents took to the waters of Australia’s St. Kilda Beach in January 2013 to escape a fierce heat wave.
Nowadays, when there’s a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It’s a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there’s a new field of research that’s providing some answers. It’s called “attribution science” — a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it’s a change in climate that’s altering weather events … and when it isn’t.
The principles start with the premise that, as almost all climate scientists expect, there will be more “extreme” weather events if the planet warms up much more: heat waves, droughts, huge storms.
But then, there have always been periodic bouts of extreme weather on Earth, long before climate change. How do you tell the difference between normal variation in weather — including these rare extremes — and what climate change is doing?
That sort of discernment is difficult, so scientists have had a rule, a kind of mantra: You can’t attribute any single weather event to climate change. It could just be weird weather.
Demonstrators gather near Columbus Circle before the start of the People’s Climate March in New York Sunday. Organizers are hoping 100,000 people worldwide might participate in the rally.
Large Protests In Hundreds Of Cities Vent Ire Over Climate Change
Then they took a close at last year’s heat wave in Australia.
The chances that the continent’s extreme temperatures reflected normal variation is “almost impossible,” says Peter Stott, a climate scientist at the Hadley Center of the Met Office, in Exeter, Great Britain. “It’s hard to imagine how you would have had those temperatures without climate change,” he says.
Stott is one of a group of researchers analyzing the patterns of “extreme weather” events in the past and comparing them with the patterns Earth is experiencing now. The intensity of last year’s Australian heat wave was statistically “off the charts,” he says. Climate change had to be behind it.
Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist with the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is also part of this “climate forensics” movement. “It’s almost [taken] for granted that climate change is influencing all manners of weather events,” Hoerling says. The question now, he adds, is: “How did it influence, and in which direction? Did it make [an extreme weather event] more likely or less likely — and by how much more likely or less likely?”
Dozens of these researchers just published an analysis of 16 weather events from 2013 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, and what they found was a mixed bag. Some events, like the big floods in Colorado, were not that unusual. But it does look as though climate change was involved in the intense heat waves in the western Pacific.
The ongoing California drought drew opposing views. Two research teams said they couldn’t find any reason to blame climate change. But Stanford University’s Noah Diffenbaugh, a member of a third team that examined the drought, disagreed. He says there’s a very rare, high-pressure “ridge” in the atmosphere over the northern Pacific that is diverting moisture away from California, exacerbating the drought.
A view of the water vapor in our storm.
Images from August 2000 (left) and August 2014 (right) show the drop in water levels in the Aral Sea.
“For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried.”
That’s the word from NASA, which has released images showing the progressive decline of the water levels in the Aral Sea, which straddles the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. The space agency captured the striking photographs via its Terra satellite.
Once the world’s fourth-largest lake, the Aral Sea has been broken apart and drying out since the 1950s and ’60s, when the Soviet Union diverted two rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, to provide irrigation for farms.
Another factor in this year’s decline, experts say, is a drop in rain and snow levels in the lake’s watershed.
The Aral Sea’s shrinkage has made headlines before — as in 2008, when Reuters reported it had been reduced by “70 percent in recent decades in what environmentalists describe as one of the worst man-made ecological disasters.”
Geographer Philip Micklin, an Aral Sea expert from Western Michigan University, tells NASA that this is “likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.”
And as a NASA page about the Aral Sea notes, the desiccation has brought other problems with it:
“As the lake dried up, fisheries and the communities that depended on them collapsed. The increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides. The blowing dust from the exposed lakebed, contaminated with agricultural chemicals, became a public health hazard.”
California’s Central Valley is one of the most fascinating places in America. The grassy, flat-bottomed basin occupies the core of inland California, roughly 13 percent of the state’s total land area, sprawled out between the Sierra Nevada range to the east and the Coast Ranges to the west. Once a primordial seabed, it’s now fertile ground.
Thanks to the Sacramento River watershed, which snakes up the middle of the valley, nearly 300 different crops are cultivated in the region, forming 8 percent of America’s total agricultural output — seven million acres constituting “the richest food-producing region in the world,” according to The Los Angeles Times’s Louis Sahagun.
It is also home to a diverse array of wildlife — the Tule elk, the San Joaquin kit fox and the iconic pronghorn antelope. One of North America’s oldest and most vibrant Basque communities is also found here. Similar in climate and topography to parts of Spain, the Central Valley is well equipped to foster the centuries-old shepherding traditions of the Basques in Europe.
The area is a linchpin of California’s many ecologies: natural, agronomical, anthropological.
But in recent years, the valley has withered from lush to parched, in part because of a combination of drought and relentless over-farming. “Decades of irrigation have leached salts and toxic minerals from the soil that have nowhere to go,” writes Carolyn Lochhead for The San Francisco Chronicle. “Aquifers are being drained at an alarming pace. More than 95 percent of the area’s native habitat has been destroyed by cultivation or urban expansion, leaving more endangered bird, mammal and other species in the southern San Joaquin than anywhere in the continental U.S.”
The drought may cost the region’s farmers upward of $1.7 billion in damages and lost crops, resulting in more than 14,500 farmhand layoffs, Mr. Sahagun writes. “Central Valley irrigators will only get two-thirds of their normal water deliveries,” he says. “Additional pumping of groundwater to replace those shortages will cost farmers about $450 million. About 410,000 acres, or 6 percent, of the irrigated cropland in the Central Valley will be fallowed this year.”
A video compiled by The New Yorker, featuring the beautiful photographs of Matt Black and Ed Kashi, lays out the plight of Central Valley farmers in black and white. The haunting images show barren stretches of dry dirt, gnarled and blackened trees seemingly raising their bare branches in desperate prayer to the cloudless sky, skinny sheep butting heads over shallow troughs of murky water.
By Joel Gratz
Monday, September 29 2014 9:44am
Lynsey Dyer is a professional skier that looked at the numbers and knew that something didn’t make sense.
Even though about 40% of skiers are women, only 14% of athletes in last season’s major ski films were female. And the season before that, the number was only 9%.
Lynsey “wanted to give young girls something positive to look up to…their Blizzard of Ahhs, Ski Movie or High Life, but done in a way that also shows the elegance, grace, community and style that is unique to women in the mountains.”
And instead of working to get a few more women in other company’s films, Lynsey decided to make her own film, showcasing only female skiers. The popularity of this concept is huge as the film’s premiere in Boulder, CO on Tuesday September 30th, is already sold out. But there are many more tour dates this fall:
October 3, Roxy Theatre, Revelstoke, BC
October 4, Sturtevant’s, Sun Valley, ID
October 8, Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, UT
October 15, Volcanic Theatre Pub, Bend OR
October 15, Roxy Theatre, Missoula, MT
October 16, The Mountaineers , SEATTLE, WA
October 17, Pink Garter Theatre, Jackson, WY
October 19, Don Thomas Sporthaus, Birmingham, MI
October 22, Portland, Oregon with EVO Gear
October 23, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, VT
October 25, Brava Theatre, San Francisco, CA
October 29, Egyptian Theatre, Boise, ID
October 30, Backcountry Essentials, Bellingham, WA
November 8, Lone Peak Cinema, Big Sky, MT
November 11, Emerson Cultural Center, Bozeman, MT
November 13th, Hadley Farms Meeting House, Hadley, MA
November 14, with WomensMovement.com, Durango, CO
November 15, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM
November 16, Marriott Park City, Park City, UT
November 22, Gold Town Nickelodeon, Juneau, AK
November 26, The Sitzmark at Alyeska, Girdwood, AK
December 7, Tahoe Art Haus Cinema, Tahoe City, CA
December 12, South Lake Tahoe, NV
December 13, Taos Ski Valley, Taos, NM
Aspen, Colo. — The trend in boutique museum building reached a chilly, sun-gilded peak a few years ago and has leveled out, at least in the United States. These days we mostly get unsexy makeovers and add-ons, and the critical conversation has moved on. Still, celebrity commissions appear. A Renzo Piano-designed satellite for the Whitney Museum of American Art is underway in Lower Manhattan. And last month, a new home for the Aspen Art Museum designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, winner of the 2014 Pritzker Prize, made its debut here.
The building, which opened to a mixed local reception, has its virtues and they are not small; it also embodies some of the absurdities and contradictions that have given “starchitecture” a bad name. Yet the Aspen museum itself as an institution — which is modest in size, collects no art and has free admission — offers, at least potentially, a working model for what a new kind of 21st-century museum, regional or otherwise, could be.
The particular regional setting in this case is a promising one. Aspen, set high in the Rockies, is physically gorgeous. Socioeconomically, it’s a very strange place. Founded as a gold-and-silver mining camp in the 19th century, it is now a migratory perch for a significant percentage of the nation’s financial elite. Dozens of Forbes 400 billionaires own property here. Land-grabbing mansions dot the hillsides. Private jets jam the tiny Aspen airport like a fleet of waiting cabs.
Another beautiful creation by Kiitella (Lisa Issenberg) at casa de Rōber’
We met Gal in New Orleans and liked her & the Revue so much that we invited them to play at our wedding party if we ever got married. Well, we did and Gal & the Revue played and created a big following from our party, returning several times. Gal and the Revue are back Friday night. If you’re in the area, you gotta make it out for a really fine band who’s music makes it impossible to stand on the sidelines. -Rōber’
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In an era of country music made shiny and plastic, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue stick to sincerity when they write with a sense of humor the real-life stories of broken down rigs and hard luck on the road. To some it may seem unlikely that this classic honky tonk band calls New Orleans home. To others who’ve heard them it may come as no surprise that they flourish in a town where tradition in every genre is paid respect with high caliber musicianship.
Since their inception the band has been led by the captivating Vanessa Niemann, an attractive songbird armed with powerhouse vocals and serious songwriting. Since leaving behind her childhood days of running barefoot with a tambourine in the Appalachians, Vanessa keeps true to her mountain roots in the swamps of New Orleans with her no-nonsense sound–albeit with a few more tattoos and better footwear.
The band keeps their country cadence with bass player and music director David Brouillette, once a small-town Louisiana boy whose first start in the music industry began with lobbying a local pizza parlor to let him play and promote shows on Saturday nights. Though his days in rural Louisiana are long gone, like Vanessa, Dave also stays true to his roots with his characteristic honky tonk-style rhythm that keeps the crowds dancing.
Armed with these real-life backgrounds, Vanessa and Dave have made Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue a vehicle to keep country dancehall culture alive while paying homage to classic honky tonk greats such as Hank Williams, Connie Smith and Webb Pierce. Their journey of almost a decade continues to evolve through their original compositions which dominate their most-recent release, Last to Leave.
A self-portrait that Sarah Marquis took (her camera was on a cart filled with gear) north of Mongolia, during the first month of her trek across Asia and Australia.
A hundred years ago, when Robert Falcon Scott set out for Antarctica on his Terra Nova expedition, his two primary goals were scientific discovery and reaching the geographic South Pole. Arguably, though, Scott was really chasing what contemporary observers call a sufferfest. He set himself up for trouble: Scott brought Manchurian and Siberian ponies that quickly fell through the snow and ice; he planned, in part, for his crew to “man-haul,” meaning that the men would pull sleds full of gear, instead of relying on dogs. Even when Scott’s men faltered, they continued collecting specimens, including rocks. The expedition ended terribly; everybody who made the push to the pole died. Miserable, starving and frostbitten, one of Scott’s last four men killed himself by walking into a blizzard without even bothering to put on his boots.
In the taxonomy of travelers, the word “explorer” suggests a morally superior pioneer, a man or woman who braves the battle against nature to discover new terrain, expanding our species’ understanding of the world. “Adventurer,” by contrast, implies a self-indulgent adrenaline junkie, who scares loved ones by courting puerile risk. The former, obviously, is the far better title, but it’s tough to claim these days. The world is Google-mapped. Reaching the actual virgin territory of space or the deep ocean requires resources that few possess. In short, the noble fig leaf of terra incognita has fallen away and laid bare the peripatetic, outsize bravado of Scott’s kindred spirits. The resulting itineraries are pretty strange. We now have guys like Felix Baumgartner sky-diving from a balloon-borne capsule at 128,100 feet.
Baumgartner falls squarely — and for more than four minutes, breaking the speed of sound — into the adventurer camp. But then there’s Sarah Marquis, who perhaps should be seen as an explorer like Scott, born in the wrong age. She is 42 and Swiss, and has spent three of the past four years walking about 10,000 miles by herself, from Siberia through the Gobi Desert, China, Laos and Thailand, then taking a cargo boat to Brisbane, Australia, and walking across that continent. Along the way, like Scott, she has starved, she has frozen, she has (wo)man-hauled. She has pushed herself at great physical cost to places she wanted to love but ended up feeling, as Scott wrote of the South Pole in his journal: “Great God! This is an awful place.” Despite planning a ludicrous trip, and dying on it, Scott became beloved and, somewhat improbably, hugely respected. Marquis, meanwhile, can be confounding. “You tell people what you’re doing, and they say, ‘You’re crazy,’ ” Marquis told me. “It’s never: ‘Cool project, Sarah! Go for it.’ ” Perhaps this is because the territory Marquis explores is really internal — the nature of fear, the limits of stamina and self-reliance and the meaning of traveling in nature as a female human animal, alone.
Some of you may have seen “Our Story in 2 Minutes,” a 2012 video edited by Joe Bush and with music from Zack Hemsey. As of this writing, it had more than 17.2 million views on YouTube from people all over the world. If you haven’t seen it, here is your chance:
It is a visually stunning trip through our history, starting at the Big Bang and ending far out into the future, presumably after the death of the sun. The brilliant idea here is to tell our story from its real beginning, integrating humans into the rest of the cosmos. As the video shows, we came from the stars and evolved from cells — and then from all sorts of beasts — to get to our primate ancestors and, finally, to Homo sapiens.
At this point in the video, it shifts from the physical and the biological sciences to the social sciences and the humanities. It tells the unfolding of civilization, from our ancestors of the deep past through the Renaissance and the Reformation — before exploring the history of America and of the world — as it relates to America through wars and their devastating effects.
When I have shown this video in public lectures, I have seen a mix of awe and anguish in people’s faces. How wonderful it all is — and what a mess we make of ourselves and the world. We came from the stars and to the stars we will go.
Yet what matters is what happens in between, how our choices chart our future. It would be nice if the leaders of the 100-plus countries in the U.N. Climate Summit could see this.
The stunning and classic Maroon Bells sparked the design for Aspen’s Red Bull Rise awards. The trophy comes to life with a laminated silhouette of jetcut, satin-polished stainless steel, multi-colored natural wool felt, and Scandinavian birch ply. Bold place numbers offer a window to the richly hued wool felt and differentiate each piece.
client: Red Bull
materials: Stainless steel, wool felt, Scandinavian birch ply, aluminum
size: 8.5″ x 4″ x 1.75″
Ya, don Rōbert is heading north to stir up those lazy Canadians. Be back Sept. 25. Check out some old posts (various categories) on the right hand column of the Homeboy page. There are a few old, but cool stories. I think the wench is a Stanley 9/16.