Serving Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey
April 25, 2019
Climate change is changing the seasons in the West. Their names should change to reflect reality.
Spring should become “flood.” Summer should become “fire.” Fall should become “smoke.” The jury is still out on a new name for winter, but “ice” or “avalanche” could become interchangeable.
Monday was Earth Day. U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., founded it in this country 49 years ago and kicked it off with an environmental teach-in to call attention to the challenges facing our little orb. Since the first celebration in 1970, Earth’s problems have only multiplied.
This is not news to anyone in the West or the Wood River Valley, which have faced major wildfires and their destructive fallout. The latest, the five or six avalanches in Warm Springs Canyon that destroyed two homes and threatened others this month, were likely the result of slopes whose mantle of trees was destroyed by fire combined with heavy rain on a deep snowpack.
The avalanches were a shocking surprise, even to longtime residents. Slopes at various places in the miles-long canyon were known to slide in exceptional snow years, but not to the extent that they scoured trenches and snapped large trees.
The wildfires, floods, oscillating droughts and rainy seasons, and avalanches haven’t penetrated the highest levels of government. President Trump’s comments on Earth Day could be summarized as “everything is fine.”
It’s impossible to live in the West and think everything is fine. It’s not, and it’s on track to get worse. Changing out light bulbs won’t fix it.
Resetting the climate requires a worldwide effort that the U.S. should lead. If American leaders don’t step up, the seasons’ name changes will stick, and generations to come will rightly blame us for the devastation.
It started small, half a century ago, but with a mission.
The first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was held in 1970 in Beauregard Square, previously and afterward known as Congo Square, where African drumming and dancing had persisted through the era of slavery. It was modeled on the traditional-music showcases at the Newport Folk Festival, but filled entirely with Louisiana’s own styles — jazz, blues, gospel, brass bands, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indians and much more. Duke Ellington, the only performer without Louisiana roots, was commissioned to write and perform a “New Orleans Suite.” Nearly two dozen food vendors offered jambalaya, étouffée and other specialties.
Tickets were $3. But only about 300 people showed up, and the overstocked vendors ended up feeding children from a nearby orphanage.
Yet the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has proved ambitious and resilient: It has survived deficits, rainouts and the aftermath of hurricanes. As it enters its 50th official run on Thursday, Jazz Fest, as everyone calls it, has grown inseparable from the cultural ecosystem of its hometown, embracing the sounds of the city and welcoming outsiders to enjoy them.
“Jazz Fest is everything that you love about New Orleans to begin with,” said Ivan Neville, the keyboardist who made his first appearance there in 1977; he is performing this year with his band Dumpstaphunk and in the Foundation of Funk with the rhythm section of the Meters, the band co-founded in 1965 by his father, Art Neville. “It’s the most variety of music that you’ll ever see in one given place, so that’s first, and then the best food that you will ever eat in your entire life.”
In recent years, Jazz Fest has drawn between 400,000 and 500,000 attendees across its two extended weekends; its peak, in 2001, was 618,000. Festival organizers estimate that it brings $300 million into the New Orleans economy. This year’s event includes nationally known headliners and hitmakers, among them Katy Perry, J Balvin, Chris Stapleton, Diana Ross and Pitbull, as well as habitual Jazz Fest performers including Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, Al Green, Herbie Hancock and the Dave Matthews Band.
Yet while visiting attractions have boosted attendance, they have never defined the festival. Quint Davis, who has booked music for Jazz Fest since it began and is now the C.E.O. of Festival Productions-New Orleans, noted that this year’s lineup includes 688 groups, “and 600 of them are from New Orleans and South Louisiana.”
That dedicated focus on the local is the core of the festival, which has bolstered the sublime stubbornness of New Orleans culture — where continuity is cherished and singular local customs are continued across generations — and brought worldwide appreciation to what were once just neighborhood festivities. “There’s no question that Jazz Fest has been the event that put New Orleans music on the map,” said Jan Ramsey, the publisher and editor in chief of the New Orleans music magazine OffBeat.
Jazz Fest has maintained its mandate because it operates far differently from other American festivals its size. Its music encompasses vintage jazz to chart-topping reggaeton; its audience is genuinely all-ages. It takes place in daylight, ending at 7 p.m. — which not only encourages visitors to seek out night life, but also rules out stage spectacles dependent on lights and video, emphasizing old-school musicianship instead.
More significantly, Jazz Fest is nonprofit, channeling revenues back into Louisiana music. “The mission of the festival all along has been to make a full circle,” Davis said. “To go back and support the culture that you’re promoting.”
“Just started reading Yvon’s new book of stories and came across this sentence from an old report he wrote on a climb in Canada that Chounard and Becky did. Just one of those good reminders on perspective as we haggle over zipper placements….”
“At the first bivouac, Fred pulled out his sports coat, stuffed the lining with crumpled-up pages from our Louis L’Amour novel, and in the morning burned the whole thing to make tea, adding creamer and sugar for extended calories. The master had given a very impressionable twenty two year old a lesson in “light-and-fast”- or was it “quick-and-dirty” alpinism.”
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” — Yvon Chouinard
For nearly 80 years, Yvon Chouinard has followed his own advice, pursuing, with equal fervor, sports adventures, business excellence, and environmental activism. Since 1950, he has captured the lessons and revelations he’s learned in articles and books, personal letters and poetry, introductions and eulogies. In this fascinating inside look, Chouinard himself has selected his favorites from years of reflection, all accompanied by illustrative photos, many never published before. The results is both more of Chouinard’s iconoclastic and provocative thinking, his skilled storytelling and sense of humor, and a picture of the evolution of his thoughts and philosophies. With articles on sports, from falconry to fishing and climbing to surfing, with musings on the purpose of business and the importance of environmental activism, this very personal book is like sitting on the couch with this amazing man, flipping through his photo album as he tells the stories of his life. Some Stories is an eclectic portrait of a unique life lived well.
Yet the final pages of the book indicate that Chouinard will continue to challenge people, business, and the world. He presents the company’s new simple but direct mission statement, revised for the first time in 27 years: “We are in business to save our home planet.” With it he emphasizes the urgency of the climate crisis then entreats every person’s obligation to reflect on, commit to, and act on this mission.
It was October 2012 when the European weather prediction model beat its American counterpart in forecasting Hurricane Sandy’s hard left turn into the U.S. coastline. What scientists had known for years — that the European forecast model was superior to the American — caught the attention of the U.S. public and Congress.
Since then, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with funding support from Congress, has worked intensely to improve the American model. It has boosted its computing power, improved the way it brings in data, and enhanced how it simulates weather systems at small scales. Yet, more than six years later, it still trails the European model in overall accuracy.
Neil Jacobs, the acting head of NOAA and a meteorologist, is committed to closing the gap between the models. Since being appointed to the Trump administration, he has made one of his top priorities installing a process that will allow U.S. forecast modeling to reach its potential and become world-class.
As part of its 2020 budget request, to the tune of $15 million, NOAA has proposed the establishment of the Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), which it says “will advance U.S. weather modeling and reclaim international leadership in the area of numerical weather prediction.”
In an interview, Jacobs blamed recent U.S. modeling shortfalls on a lack of research investment. He said the United States now spends about the same amount on operating its flagship model, the Global Forecast System (GFS), as it does on research initiatives to improve it. By contrast, the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts spends roughly five times as much on research. Jacobs said he’d like to see NOAA “grow research five times” to keep pace.
But there is another reason for us to rethink our relationships with our devices. By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives.
Until now, most discussions of phones’ biochemical effects have focused on dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits — and addictions. Like slot machines, smartphones and apps are explicitly designed to trigger dopamine’s release, with the goal of making our devices difficult to put down.
This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral addictions to our phones. But our phones’ effects on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.
Cortisol is our primary fight-or-flight hormone. Its release triggers physiological changes, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, that help us react to and survive acute physical threats.
These effects can be lifesaving if you are actually in physical danger — like, say, you’re being charged by a bull. But our bodies also release cortisol in response to emotional stressors where an increased heart rate isn’t going to do much good, such as checking your phone to find an angry email from your boss.
If they happened only occasionally, phone-induced cortisol spikes might not matter. But the average American spends four hours a day staring at their smartphone and keeps it within arm’s reach nearly all the time, according to a tracking app called Moment. The result, as Google has noted in a report, is that “mobile devices loaded with social media, email and news apps” create “a constant sense of obligation, generating unintended personal stress.”
The first time Wiley Maple encountered the Streif, the world’s most fearsome downhill, he was twenty-one years old. Typically, downhill racers take a couple of training runs in the days leading up to the event. Before each one, they inspect the course, which entails side-slipping down while visualizing the line that will deliver them to the finish in the least amount of time. As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, Maple had side-slipped, and then skied, most of the World Cup’s other majestic, gnarly downhills, but this track—which descends an unremarkable and not particularly tall forested alp called the Hahnenkamm, in Kitzbühel, Austria—seemed to represent a whole new level of inhospitable. The thought of hurling himself down the narrow, steep, snaking flume of ice and shadow made him queasy. He wasn’t the first previously undaunted young buck to doubt himself when confronted by the Streif’s proportions and demands—no other course has inspired such fear and respect among the craft’s practitioners, or likely sent as many of them into (or over) the protective fencing and then to the hospital—but none of those predecessors had been him, here, now.
A couple of hours later, he was in the starting hut for his first training run, peering down past the first two turns toward the precipice called the Mausefalle, or mousetrap, a two-hundred-foot jump over which the previous racer had just vanished. Word reached the start, via radio, that the guy had crashed. Course hold: time to wait. Twenty minutes passed. You don’t get far in this line of work unless you have some control over your nerves, and so Maple calmed himself. Eventually, he got the alles ist klar and, in a self-imposed daze, nudged into the start. Ski poles over wand, beep-beep-beep-beep-beeeeep, two pushes, two strides, and schuss. A half-dozen seconds later, airborne over the Mausefalle at sixty-five miles an hour, he thought, Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel. He snapped to, and tried to bear down. Initiating the infamous hard-right turn at the bottom of a wall of ice called the Steilhang, he crossed the tips of his skis, lost the line, and careered into the fence. This was where, years before, the Canadian Brian Stemmle, off his line, had caught a ski in the netting. That crash, which came to be known as the Wishbone, split Stemmle’s pelvis open and put him in a coma. But Maple got away clean. After a moment, he crawled under the netting, put his skis back on, and reëntered the course a little farther down to have a look at the rest of it. On race day, he came in fifty-third. This was in 2012.
My own “Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel” moment came on a Tuesday in January, earlier this year, after I stepped off the train at the base of the Hahnenkamm gondola. It was dusk. The town was still relatively quiet, in the absence of the eighty or so thousand fans who were expected to invade that weekend for the annual series of Alpine races and debauches. I glanced up and saw for the first time, shadow-blue and telephoto close, the final section of the Streif, where the racers, after soaring off a jump, come hauling across a steep, bumpy, fallaway traverse—legs burning, skis thrashing—and into the final plunge, the Zielschuss, reaching speeds of almost ninety miles an hour. I had been watching the race on television for decades, whenever and wherever I could find it, with a heart-in-throat intensity of devotion that embarrasses me, and this last hellbent stretch was always the emotional climax, the site of either life-threatening crackups or ecstatic finishes, amid the drunken, swaying throngs. And here it was, the empty stage, the star of the show. The course was marked off with blue food dye, which, in flat light, helps the skiers see the contours in the snow. Viewed in person, from below, the traverse looked narrower and steeper than it did on TV. From the angle of the course workers’ stance, as they tended to the slope in crampons, you’d have guessed that they were ice climbing. I walked up on the snow to the finish area. If the Streif was an idol, I was close enough to ask for an autograph.
It may not have been his intention, but special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has forced a momentous choice on the Democrats who control the House of Representatives. How they navigate the next several months will matter not only to politics but, more importantly, to whether the rule of law prevails.
If we lived in a normal time with a normal president, a normal Republican Party and a normal attorney general, none of this would be so difficult. Mueller’s report is devastating. It portrays a lying, lawless president who pressured aides to obstruct the probe and was happy — “Russia, if you’re listening . . . ” — to win office with the help of a hostile foreign power. It also, by the way, shows the president to be weak and hapless. His aides ignored his orders, and he regularly pandered to a Russian dictator.
Mueller’s catalogue of infamy might have led Republicans of another day to say: Enough. But the GOP’s new standard seems to be that a president is great as long as he’s unindicted.
And never mind that the failure to charge Donald Trump stemmed not from his innocence but from a Justice Department legal opinion saying a sitting president can’t be indicted. Mueller explained he had “fairness” concerns — a truly charming qualm in light of the thuggishness described in the rest of the report — because the no-indictment rule meant there could be no trial. The president would lack an “adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”
And perhaps Mueller did not reckon with an attorney general so eager to become the president’s personal lawyer and chief propagandist. William P. Barr sat on the document for 27 days and mischaracterized it in his March 24 letter. He mischaracterized it again just an hour before it was released.
This leaves Democrats furious — and on their own. Unfortunately, it is not news that this party has a nasty habit of dividing into hostile camps. On the one side, the cautious; on the other side, the aggressive. The prudent ones say members of the hit-for-the-fences crowd don’t understand the political constraints. The pugnacious ones say their circumspect colleagues are timid sellouts.
After Mueller report, Democrats weigh impeachment
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on April 21 said House Democrats will meet in the coming weeks to discuss whether to pursue impeachment proceedings.(JM Rieger/The Washington Post)
Sometimes these fights are relatively harmless, but not this time. Holding Trump accountable for behavior that makes Richard M. Nixon look like George Washington matters, for the present and for the future.
Those demanding impeachment are right to say Mueller’s report can’t just be filed away and ignored. But being tough and determined is not enough. The House also needs to be sober and responsible.
This needle needs to be threaded not just for show, or for narrow electoral reasons. Trump and Barr have begun a battle for the minds and hearts of that small number of Americans (roughly 10 percent or a little more) who are not already locked into their positions. Barr’s calculated sloth in making the report public gave the president and his AG sidekick an opportunity to pre-shape how its findings would be received. The uncommitted now need to see the full horror of what Mueller revealed about this president. A resolute but deliberate approach is more likely to persuade them.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joins her caucus on a conference call Monday, she will reiterate her “one step at a time” strategy. The bottom line is that rushing into impeachment and ruling it out are equally foolish.
This means the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report, which the administration immediately resisted. Mueller himself has rightly been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.
Nothing is gained by labeling these initial hearings and document requests part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Because Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep-six.
For now, it’s useful for Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) to underscore the outrageousness of the abuses Mueller found by calling for impeachment while Democrats in charge of the inquiries such as Nadler and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, say, as both did on Sunday, they’ll reserve judgment while they sift through the facts.
Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.
In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.