Thought of the moment: Environmental movement most diverse

August 6, 2008

Environmentalism is the most politically diverse movement in history. Here in the Kingsnorth climate camp, I have met anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives and, mostly, pragmatists. I remember sitting in a campaign meeting during the Newbury bypass protests and marvelling at the weirdness of our coalition. In the front row sat the local squirearchy: brigadiers in tweeds and enormous moustaches, titled women in twin sets and headscarves. In the middle were local burghers of all shapes and sizes. At the back sat the scuzziest collection of grunge-skunks I have ever laid eyes on. The audience disagreed about every other subject under the sun – if someone had asked us to decide what day of the week it was, the meeting would had descended into fisticuffs – but everyone there recognised that our quality of life depends on the quality of our surroundings.

The environment is inseparable from social justice. Climate change, for example, is primarily about food and water. It threatens the fresh water supplies required to support human life. As continental interiors dry out and the glaciers feeding many of the rivers used for irrigation disappear, climate change presents the greatest of all threats to the future prospects of the poor. The rich will survive for a few decades at least, as they can use their money to insulate themselves from the effects. The poor are being hammered already.

British ecologist, journalist and activist, George Monbiot (Wikimedia image)

British ecologist, journalist and activist, George Monbiot (Wikimedia image)

Millard Fillmore’s place in the blogosphere

August 6, 2008

American President’s Blog has 14 posts indexed to Millard Fillmore, as of today. That’s among the fewest listings of all the presidents (but more than Abigail Adams!).

Millard Fillmore, from Clipart, Etc.

Millard Fillmore, from Clipart, Etc.

Fillmore lost out on the “hardest name to spell” poll, but he won “most obscure president.”

The blog has a nice summary of sources on Fillmore, but nothing about the bathtub! I get e-mail often from people looking for information about Fillmore — usually junior high and younger kids, the ones who didn’t pick a more famous president quickly when the teacher said “Now choose a president to do a report on.” In reality, there just isn’t a lot available, on the internet, or in print. (I’ve collected a few sources here.)

Fillmore, perhaps more than any other president, put Japan where it is today. Matthew C. Perry usually gets the credit for opening Japan, most historians focusing on the drama of Commodore Perry’s visit rather than the action of the president who sent him there.

Fillmore’s place in history: He’s fallen into one of the cracks.

At least the American President’s Blog didn’t get sucked in by the bathtub hoax.

Image from Clipart, Etc., part of Florida’s Educational Technology Clearing House

Alpine Loop? Try Utah’s, gentler, prettier than Colorado’s

August 6, 2008

Utah’s canyons have so many pretty spots. Taking visitors through them I always heard about how no one expected such beauty in the desert. So I was excited to see the headline in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News about taking the Alpine Loop.

Autumn aspens in Utahs Alpine Loop - Wikimedia photo

Autumn aspens in Utah's Alpine Loop - Wikimedia photo

Prettiest drive you can make in a day. Start out in American Fork, head up American Fork Canyon, cross over to the backside of Mt. Timpanogos — you’ll see aspen, pines, fir, some of the prettiest streams you’ve ever seen anywhere. Some years back the Utah Travel Council had a spectacular poster showing the colors in the fall — about five shades each of red, gold and green, aspen and cottonwoods against the balsam and Douglas fir and a few scattered pines. Stop and hike up to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. See where the glacier was on the east side of Timpanogos.

End up passing Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Resort, and down Provo Canyon (when I skied there it was $6.50 for a full-day pass; have the rates gone up?) — finish up with dinner in a good restaurant in Provo (or drive the 36 miles back to Salt Lake City and have world-class sushi at Takashi).

Alas. The article was about Colorado’s Alpine Loop. Who knew Colorado even had one by that name?

I suspect the Colorado version is less-traveled. The author took a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Utah Travel Council photo of the Alpine Loop showing some of the autumn colors -- not the great shot from the long-ago poster, alas.

Utah Travel Council photo of the Alpine Loop showing some of the autumn colors -- not the great shot from the long-ago poster, alas.

Utah’s Alpine loop is paved the entire way, closed maybe only during a winter of very heavy snow. If you’re just passing through, you can do the drive in three hours or less, easily. If you have a day, grab a picnic, and spend some time stopping to enjoy the mountains.

(Go see Rich Legg’s photos of the east side of Timpanogos, here.)

Some time I’d like to check out the Colorado version. Odds are that I’ll be back in Utah County before then, however, and odds are you’ll be closer to the Utah version than the Colorado version, too.

You know the old saying about “take time to stop and smell the balsam, and ooh and aah at the aspen?” The Alpine Loop is what the aphorist was thinking about. Theodore Roosevelt would have gone there, had he known about it. You know about it now.

Windleys Google map of Utahs Alpine Loop, around Mt. Timpanogos

Windley's Google map of Utah's Alpine Loop, around Mt. Timpanogos

Smoke without fire, in California

August 6, 2008

Geology, geography, meteorology, climatology, chemistry — whatever you call it, reality always trumps fiction.

From the headline, “Ventura County hot spot puzzles experts,” I wondered whether a caldera was sending a telegram. Probably not.*

The ground smokes, but there is no fire. Experts’ best guess: Drought causes the ground to dry out, and crack. Petroleum stuff (in gas form) bubbles up from underground, into the cracked earth. Oxygen from the surface mixes deep. Somewhere underground the hydrocarbons meet the oxygen and the resulting combustion heats the ground to 800° Fahrenheit.

It’s a dry land analog of the methane hydrates warming and bubbling up in the ocean. The waste products contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but so would the emissions if they didn’t burn first.

Cause or effect of climate change? Significant?

*  The Long Valley Caldera is about 300 miles north of Ventura County.  Ventura County itself is not particularly volcanically active, from what I understand.

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