Category Archives: environment

National Parks Boast a $34 Billion Boom as Budget Cuts Loom

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from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Record-visitation pumps billions into national, local economies in 2016

WASHINGTON – National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016, a $2.9 billion increase from 2015, and supported 318,000 jobs, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today. The number reflects the significant, positive economic impact national park visitors have on gateway communities, including sales, lodging and jobs, as well as the impact on the national economy as a whole.

Read the rest of the press release here.

Acadia National Park in Maine. © Coleong/Dreamstime.

It’s widely known that our national parks are having infrastructure problems because funding has been so insufficient that keeping roads, bridges, structures, trails, and emergency and communications systems up to date is impossible.

Like infrastructure needs outside the park system, allocating money to roads and bridges isn’t sexy in spite of the fact that we see periodic reports about the number of bridges, dams, locks, levees and other vital transportation and safety structures and systems that are below par throughout the country.

Writing for SmartAsset in January 2016, Amelia Josephson said that, “According to the NPS, the nearly $3 billion appropriated for the NPS budget falls short of what’s needed. In May 2015 the park service said it had delayed $11.5 billion in necessary maintenance in 2014 due to budget shortfall. Although national parks charge fees, these fees are not nearly enough to fund the national park system, which is why the NPS depends so heavily on Congress’ budget appropriations.”

A small fraction of this money can be made up by friends of the parks organizations that raise money and fund discrete projects within the parks they’re associated with that would otherwise fall outside NPS’ spending. But this is like bailing a lake with a thimble. It does help, but the overall park’s system continues to fall behind.

Cheating the parks isn’t just about nature, protected areas, and outdoor recreation. It impacts the local economies as well–generally those within 60 miles of a park. As the NPCA press release notes, park visitation doesn’t simply bring money to the park, but also to gas stations, camp grounds, stores, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. Those who visit national parks tend to stray longer than random tourists who make brief stops at roadside attractions and less-well-known tourist destinations. Of course, park service employee salaries add to the “new money” brought into the regional economy from the park.

Cheating the parks and other public lands is cheating the future, and not just the environment on which we all depend even if we never go out and visit it. It reduces the value of the country in terms of assets and makes the ultimate loss of parks, or parts of parks, more and more likely in the future. We can pretend it isn’t happening just as many pretend there’s no such thing as global warming. That’s the head-in-the-sand approach. We can do better.

Malcolm

 

Climate Change: Water Cycle and Water Demand

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from the EPA

Water Cycle and Water Demand

“The water cycle (shown in the following figure) is a delicate balance of precipitation, evaporation, and all of the steps in between. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere, in effect increasing the atmosphere’s capacity to “hold” water. Increased evaporation may dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation on other areas.

“Changes in the amount of rain falling during storms provide evidence that the water cycle is already changing. Over the past 50 years, the amount of rain falling during very heavy precipitation events has increased for most of the United States.  This trend has been greatest in the Northeast, Midwest, and upper Great Plains, where the amount of rain falling during the most intense 1% of storms has increased more than 30%.  Warming winter temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Furthermore, rising temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year. This alters the timing of streamflow in rivers that have their sources in mountainous areas.

“As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to maintain their health and thrive. Many important economic activities, like producing energy at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food crops, also require water. The amount of water available for these activities may be reduced as Earth warms and if competition for water resources increases.”

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Currently, this information can still be found on the EPA site here.

Malcolm

As a long-time member of such organizations as the National Parks and Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy, I can’t help but write novels that support conservation the value of the environment.

 

 

 

Wisdom from nature and indigenous cultures

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“Malidoma [Dr. Malidoma Some´] teaches that the healing power of nature, ritual and community is what the indigenous world offers to the modern world. In the indigenous world, community is integral to the harmony and balance of each individual.” from the mission statement of East Coast Village

africaThe modern world of science and technology has learned a lot from observing nature and indigenous cultures’ relationships with the natural world. Unfortunately, we have also missed most of what nature and indigenous cultures have had to offer, and we further facilitated that tragedy by calling such cultures hicks, savages, superstitious, ignorant and pagan (in the negative sense most people assign to that word).

Organized religion went a step further, claiming throughout history that pagans–including witches–worshiped the so-called “devil” and needed to be put to death for their beliefs. These beliefs were not only natural but threatened the knowledge and wisdom a culture based on patriarchy had to offer.

Today, for example, we look at prescribed drugs as compounds invented in laboratories and produced in factories. While synthesized drugs have brought quality control and the benefits of mass production, they also come with a price based on a patent that allows drug companies to charge hundreds of dollars for little bottles of pills with ingredients that are probably worth a few pennies.

Yes, it can be dangerous for people without an herbalist certification or an oral tradition of using plants as medcine, much less prescribe them from others. Yet, when the medical establishment condemns the practice out of hand, they are overlooking the fact that many major drugs, past and present, originally came from plants and were frequently discovered by observing what native cultures used for medicine. One expert says that 120 distinct chemicals that come from plants are currently used throughout the world.

In a recent news story (A Doctor Discovered Why Insulin Is So Pricy In America — And How To Buy It More Cheaply)  it was shown that insulin costs diabetes patients more than most of them can afford because a pricey biotech drug created in the 1970s took over the market so completely that the off-patent, generic insulin is no longer available in the United States. The whys and wherefores of medicines and their costs are part of a complex tangle of issues. The lack of natural drugs just might, in some cases, stem from our championing what comes out of a lab over what nature produces.

spellsensuousIn The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram argues that “Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain.”

We have been making excuses for years about the supposed Gods of science and technology at the expense of a shared relationship with the natural world and those who understand it. From time to time, we run across articles that focus on one indigenous culture or another that show one group has little or no cancer and another group has little or no stress and stress-related maladies. But such things usually stop at the curiosity-level “go figure” or the profit-motive level of “how can we synthesize what they know put it in a pill?”

ofwaterDr. Malidoma Some´, a widely known teacher of African wisdom, is the author of multiple books, including “The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community,” “Creating a New Sense of Home” and the now-classic “Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.”

On his website, Dr. Some´ writes that “It is possible that we have been brought together at this time because we have profound truths to teach each other. Toward that end, I offer the wisdom of the African ancestors so that Westerners might find the deep healing they seek.”

I don’t reject art, culture, science or technology. I do reject thinking they are all we have.  Dr. Some´ has things to teach us that we have turned a deaf and snobbish ear to for generations. Now we have a medical system nobody can pay for, global warming nobody knows how to fix and poverty that exceeds our comprehension. Something is badly out of sync and those who tell us that modern man is like a cancer upon the climate suggest that we ourselves are the problem.

Abram suggests we will never solve the major issues of life as long as we’re only willing to look at everything except nature and natural wisdom whether it comes out of Africa or the so-called “First Nations” (to use the Canadian phrase) who live invisibly among us.

I was taught what most kids of my generation were taught. Christianity is all there is. Paved streets are better than unpaved country roads. Science and technology are better than anything the witches, root doctors, and “illiterate savages” have to offer.

Undoing all that brainwashing can take a lifetime. If only, we could start fresh with our children and not addict them to false gods in the first place.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella about a granny and a kitty fighting the KKK that’s filled with the wisom of the natural world. It’s on sale today on Kindle.

“I loved the way Campbell made magic part of the fabric of the place…Readers of magic realism will appreciate Conjure Woman’s Cat. Highly recommended.” –  Lynne Cantwell, hearth/myth – Rursday Reads

 

 

 

 

Meditations on Seeds and Their Immense Journey

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from Magic Moments:

“The seeds on my carpet were not going to lie stiffly where they had dropped like their antiquated cousins, the naked seeds on the pine cone scales. They were travelers. Struck by the thought, I went out next day and collected several other varieties. I line them up now in a row on my desk—so many little capsules of life, winged, hooked or spiked. Every one is an angiosperm, a product of the true flowering plants. Contained in these little boxes is the secret of that far-off Cretaceous explosion of a hundred million years ago that changed the face of the planet. And somewhere in here, I think, as I poke seriously at one particularly resistant seedcase of a wild grass, was once man himself.” – Loren Eiseley in “How Flowers Changes the World”

I have always been fascinated by the science and mystery of seeds. I first noticed seeds when I opened packages of Ferry’s seeds for the back yard garden mother chaperoned when I was young. Later on, I discovered the poetic writings of such naturalists as Loren Eiseley whose 1957 book The Immense Journey blended in my mind the facts of science with the mysteries behind the world’s metaphors about seeds, seasons, and the cycles of time.

Place a seed in the soil and it waits. Perhaps it dreams. Years ago, I saved a cartoon out of a magazine–perhaps it was the Saturday Review or The Atlantic–that showed an acorn dreaming of the mighty tree it would become, but then in succeeding drawings, that dream became smaller and smaller as a squirrel nibbled it away. While there was something dark and amusing about this cartoon, it bothered me because it represented what might have been. While they wait, perhaps seeds dream of the roses and pine trees and grasses they will become while worrying about squirrels.

Avocado Seed – Wikipedia drawing

We make much of spring in our metaphors and myths and for that, I suppose, we have seeds and flowers to thank, for they not only made it possible for us to be here, they gave us a road map that reads equally well in planting guides and poems and fantasy. When the waiting seed meets water and warmth, enzymes release food energy, the seed coat opens, oxygen enters, and growth begins followed by the urgent need to breath the soil with a sprout and first leaves.

flax flowers

I used flax, flax seeds and linen in Sarabande because the steps taking seeds to yarn remind me of the steps taking a child to an adult and the equally mysterious steps leading that adult’s whole self to bloom into all the possibilities once dreamt of by the egg in the womb. But I could have used roses or even squash!

I see seeds in stories where seeds aren’t mentioned because the metaphors and mysteries of seeds have stayed with me for years, ever since the first seed was planted in my mind when I opened a Ferry’s packet over the waiting earth of our garden and saw that what I held in my hand would become squash and become tomatoes and with even more seeds that would one day lead to probable plants and worlds spinning off in all directions.

The “immense journey” in the title of Loren Eiseley’s classic book refers, of course to the journey of life on the planet. Yet I cannot help but think that each seed also sets out on an immense journey after its period of dormancy ends with the spring. Perhaps at some level of our psyches, every flax seed and every human knows where the journey will take them. Perhaps we know and then we forget until the water, warmth and light have reached their appointed moments in our transformation.

“Flowers changed the face of the planet,” wrote Eisely. “Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star.” I hope Thompson was right.

As I ponder this post written for my soon-to-be-discontinued blog “Magic Moments,” I think that with the increasing amount of discussion these days about the Goddess and Mother Earth, that we forget that seeds germinate in darkness; without it, they come to nothing. We are often quick to marginalize, ban and libel everything dark from the dark goddess to the mysteries of the moon to night itself. There is symbolism in the immense journey of seeds that we can apply to our lives, beginning with the idea that if we are kept out of the darkness by religions, cultures, industries, governments and societal mores and folkways, we are stunting our growth from the beginning.

Malcolm

LadyoftheBlueHourcoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Kindle paranormal/spiritual short story “The Lady of the Blue Hour.”

Will Earth last forever in spite of the damage?

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“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” – Terry Tempest Williams in “Red”

Some claim that no matter what foolishness we bring to our planet, Earth abides. Do you agree?

I hope that claim is more than wishful thinking. For years I thought an ever abiding Earth was a certainty and that even in the worst-case nuclear winter we can imagine, the planet could shake off the damage. Now, I think we’ve done too much for that certainty.

Author George R. Stewart certainly took that view in his famous 1949 science fiction novel called Earth Abides. While this book, which is among the best novels I’ve ever read, is a eulogy for civilization as we know it, it’s not a story about the end of the Earth. This book is somewhat responsible for my thinking that when all is said and done, the planet will one day be reborn without us.

Plenty of Time?

For years, people have said that no matter how badly we treat the environment, the ultimate destruction of the planet is so many years into the future that we still have time to change what we are doing. In that vein, saying that global warming or dying oceans or dangerously high population growth will one day do us in, is about like telling a teenager he needs to save some of his summer job money for retirement or he’ll starve some day.

As an author, I have absolutely no interest in writing post-apocalyptic fiction. Nonetheless, I often play the what-if game inside my head about all sorts of things that will never evolve into my books.

One game involves walking down a long highway into the future and seeing alongside the road a timeline of positive and negative news events, discoveries, storms, political decisions, and other critical moments. How far can I walk and still find mankind here? Are there actually multiple roads? Perhaps a frightening event leads us to make positive changes and one prospective road gets longer. Perhaps something else lures us into a false sense of security and we begin to think Earth will abide forever. At that point, all the roads get shorter.

If we knew how long the Earth would abide at our present rate of destroying it, what would we do? Would we keep on keeping on or would we finally realize that the world’s wild mercy really is in our hands?

This post first appeared on my now-discontinued Magic Moments blog in 2012.

–Malcolm

 

Glacier Park: Proposed Fish Passage Barrier

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from NPS Glacier National Park:

akokalaWEST GLACIER, MONT. – Public comments are encouraged on a recently completed environmental assessment for a proposed fish passage barrier downstream of Akokala Lake in the North Fork District of Glacier National Park. Comments are due by July 7, 2014. The Akokala Creek Fish Passage Barrier Environmental Assessment is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/AkokalaFishBarrier. (Click on document list to read.)

Akokala Lake is one of the last bull trout supporting lakes on the west side of the park and is at risk of invasion by non-native lake trout, which are known to have severe detrimental effects on native fish populations. The drainage is also susceptible to invasion by rainbow trout and possibly brook trout. Monitoring and genetic testing show hybridization between westslope cutthroat and rainbow trout has already begun to occur in Akokala Creek. Brook trout can out-compete westslope cutthroat trout and hybridize with bull trout.

The environmental assessment analyzes two alternatives: 1) Alternative A-No Action, and 2) Alternative B-Construct a fish passage barrier on Akokala Creek. The preferred alternative is to construct a fish passage barrier (Alternative B). A fish passage barrier would prevent additional non-native fish from accessing Akokala Lake and the upper Akokala drainage, and reduce or eliminate further expansion of westslope cutthroat-rainbow trout hybridization. By protecting the drainage against non-native invasive fish, this project would also help safeguard important habitat refugia for native fish confronting the stressors of climate change.

The environmental assessment, as well as additional information is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/AkokalaFishBarrier. Public comments can be made directly through this website, or written comments may be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Akokala Fish Barrier EA, PO Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936.

Personally, I support the fish barrier due to the risk to native specifies from non-native species.

Malcolm

Erosion of the American Wilderness Idea

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From the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center:

“Brownbag” Lecture

Thursday, May 22, 2014
12 noon-1 PM
Glacier National Park Community Building

wolkeAuthor and wilderness lover, Howie Wolke will talk about the ongoing loss of wilderness, both in the big outdoors and within the human animal. He will relate the erosion of the wilderness idea to the spreading disease of Wilderness Amnesia.

Wolke is a ‘wild preservative,’ to borrow the term from the late Edward Abbey, advocating for the designation and protection of real wilderness in the United States. He is past president and current vice president of the national conservation group Wilderness Watch. He also cofounded Big Wild Advocates, Montanans for Gallatin Wilderness, the original Wyoming Wilderness Association and the original wilderness-focused Earth First. Following his passion, Wolke has made his living as a wilderness guide and outfitter for the last 36 years.

Click on the link above for upcoming brownbags.

Malcolm

Three of Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy novels are set in Glacier National Park.