One of the many wonderful
things about living where I live is I am not required to travel far from my
home to see wonderful stuff. Like on the recent afternoon when I went driving with
a fellow photographer along a nearby road and found four Red-tail hawks in the space of about a half mile.
Coming up on a year ago, I visited an eye doctor. I was constantly crying. My eyes would not stop with the waterworks.
He told me the problem was I was not making tears, which was irritating my eyes, which was making them water like Marsh Creek after that rain we had at the end of July. He prescribed eye drops that would make me make tears so my eyes wouldn’t be irritated so they would not, well, make tears.
More than 30 years ago, a college professor told his class pavement was partially – and considerably – responsible for warming the planet. Every time two-lane country roads are widened to federal specifications – from two barely 8-foot travel lanes bracketed by gravel berms to 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot breakdown lanes – the local temperature increased by a few degrees. And with every new shopping center, with accompanying blacktopped parking lot, the local temperature jumps some more.
Daughter rendered the verdict upon discovering our back yard is home to a family of Eastern Bluebirds, another of English House Sparrows, and a third of House wrens. And those are only the ones occupying houses we have set out for their use. There also are American Robins and Northern Cardinals, a ton of blue jays and an equal number of Goldfinches. We also have hung several feeders, which we keep supplied with mixed birdseed, and another screened version filled with thistle seed.
This spring was a record-breaking season for attendance at the annual Mount Hope Maple Madness, held at Camp Eder, on Mount Hope Road, Hamiltonban Township. The event was staged by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, an environmental education facility a short distance from Camp Eder.
Folks from miles around showed up to learn about maple syrup making, and to enjoy some of the sweet, sticky nectar on hot pancakes.
Santa and the grandkids are gone, leaving in their wake a pathway to my garage piled high with cardboard and torn and crumpled wrapping paper, as well as numerous smaller boxes that once contained the makings of various foodstuffs. All must be cut or crushed and delivered to the end of the driveway, where it can be disappeared, first into a big truck and then into a landfill most of us know, or care, not where.
TThree Black Vultures showed up in the backyard Tuesday and headed for our stream. They were not looking for food; they craved water. They hover over us every day; that was the first time any of them landed so near our house.
Drinking water is in short supply in many wild places. We are in a time of year when water levels often are low, but Marsh Creek, in places where it normally only is low, is nearly dry. I was shooting pictures of a pair of Great Blue Herons looking for enough water to support a fresh frog for lunch when a Mallard drake swam by, about three feet over the surface of what used to be the creek. There was more water in the humid air than in the stream bed.
On a nearby fence rail, a dozen starlings sat with mouths open, panting. Other critters presumably have found shadier places to await sundown.
I went swimming in Marsh Creek last week. It wasn’t a planned exercise, but it was instructive. Global warming, it seems, has reached Adams County – a fact I had only suspected until, an hour after the impromptu dive, I’d not frozen to death.
We had gone canoeing on the creek, me with a camera – which attained a starring role in the story to follow.
The ice is gone from my favorite paddling pond. There’s a saying from somewhere in my past that 75 percent of Earth is covered with water. Clearly, the saying goes, God intended for man to spend thrice the time fishing as working. It’s probably closer to 70 percent, but the point is well made.
About 97 percent of the planet’s water is ocean saltwater. Of the three percent that is freshwater, nearly three-quarters is trapped in polar ice and glaciers, leaving about two percent drinkable.
The evening news begins nearly every night with some version of, “Forty million people will be affected by the weather tonight.” Unless another Malaysian Air flight disappears, our TV screens will be filled with 8 feet of snow in Boston, and 18-wheelers piled up on Midwestern interstate highways.
Of course, news casters, not to be accused of unqualified hyperbole, usually note the effect will be limited to residents of Illinois through Massachusetts. If they’d include folks in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and maybe Virginia and West Virginia, they could get those numbers up. Even Texas has had snow this year – which is odd since part of the state was wondering as Fall approached whether they would have water at all.
Three conservation organizations have released their 2014 environmental scorecard, giving Pennsylvania lawmakers poor grades for protecting the environment in which we all live.
[pullquote]Place the right industry near the creek and the effect of all that work is gone.[/pullquote]
The report had been delayed to await the results of a Senate vote on a House initiated bill that essentially makes voluntary previously mandatory requirements that developers protect the state’s high value waterways as they pursue corporate profits. The Senate approved, and as I write this the bill awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, to turn it into law.
(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 8, 2013)
When I awoke Wednesday, entirely too early for my morning breakfast with a friend, I found about four inches of the white stuff on the backyard picnic table, and still coming down. Already it was falling off the Jeep, leaving behind rivulets of melt. By noon, it was almost gone, mostly turned to water.
A nice “now you see it, now you don’t” springtime snowfall.
It put me in mind of the storm we had in mid-to-late March 1998. I’d only been in Gettysburg a couple weeks. Continue reading →
“In early spring 2008, two young bison bulls jumped a sagging three-string barbed wire fence separating Chihuahua, Mexico, from New Mexico in the United States. On both sides of the international line lay an unbroken grassland valley scoured almost bare by a prolonged drought, which announced itself meanly on the dusty hides stretched taught [sic] over bison bones. … Here is a landscape that has seen the birth of jaguars, the death of Spanish missionaries, the budding of Saguaro cactus, the persecution and dogged endurance of native peoples, and the footsteps of a million migrants recorded in the smoldering sands of the Devil’s Road.”
One of the principles I have offered my children and grandchildren has been that books have the power to take us places we might otherwise never visit. One such book is Krista Schlyer’s new one titled “Continental Divide.” In words and pictures gathered over several years, Schlyer, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental photographer and writer, takes us to this nation’s border with Mexico and the fence intended to block illegal humans, but instead blocks the necessary migration of the area’s wildlife. Continue reading →
“Electricity-water collisions” is a term that’s reportedly been around a couple years, but it hasn’t had much attention. Summer 2012 may change that. According to a post by a Union of Concerned Scientist’s senior climate and energy analyst, Erika Spanger-Siegfried, “Our electricity system, it turns out, wasn’t built for summers like 2012, and it showed.”
Summer 2012 proved, or at least strengthened, the dual argument that global warming is real, and continued operation of air conditioners in an effort to pretend otherwise is not a divinely declared certainty.
I suppose there is room for some question about whether global warming is even partially manmade. After all, scientists say, the entire globe once was a spinning molten mass.
Then, most of the northern hemisphere was blanketed in miles-deep ice. Next it became warm enough to reliably grow crops while encouraging some of its human inhabitants to, at least part of the year, wear warm clothing. So it’s getting a little warmer. What’s the big deal?
Of course, it does seem a little incongruous that certain politicians would exhort their compatriots to believe science, and then legislate denial of science that says the earth is becoming warmer and humans are helping it happen.
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.
For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading →
I don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.
I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.
I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.