Nature

Who do you think we are?

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“Our mastery over the forces of nature has led to a rapid growth of population, and a vast accumulation of wealth; but these have brought with them such an amount of poverty and crime, and have fostered the growth of so much sordid feeling and so many fierce passions, that it may well be questioned, whether the mental and moral status of our population has not on the average been lowered, and whether the evil has not overbalanced the good.”

Alfred Russel Wallace


That was more than 150 years ago. Alfred Russel Wallace was born 194 years ago and became a leading scientist, who independently proposed a theory of natural selection, which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory.

I wonder what instilled his negative view on the evolution of human society. It is also remarkable to read his historic assessment of our proliferation and its effect on our ethics. What would he think if he were around today? Did his voice go unheard?

On another note, it is also Elvis Presley’s birthday today.

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Inside Out

Drifting

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Drifting Snow, Alaska

“Hidden in the glorious wildness
like unmined gold.”

John Muir


Is it time for another John Muir, or an Edward Abbey and a president with an open ear for the environment and its conservation?

I think so. All this talk about jobs, growth, and profits is so wrong. Maybe it will support this generation and a few more to come, but we cannot keep growing forever. That’s just not possible on a planet with limited resources. What do we do? Do we care?

That is maybe the key question we should ask ourselves. Do we really care about future generations and this planet? Or do we only care about us? Our family, our genes?

I am wondering what Darwin would say about our current state of affairs. Maybe our species is currently the fittest in this world that we have changed. Maybe not.

What do you think?

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One Man's Paradise

Simplicity

“If you will stay close to nature,
to its simplicity,
to the small things hardly noticeable,
those things can unexpectedly
become great and immeasurable.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


It took me all summer to find simplicity. Nature was just full of flowers, leaves, seeds and berries. Colors abound.

The mountains changed their white coats for mineral hues. The clouds playing with the mountain tops, sometimes just putting a veil over them.

Then, one calm afternoon a few leaves reflected perfectly in a quiet lake. It was impossible to miss.

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One Man's Paradise

Simply beautiful…

“I see Earth!
It is so beautiful.”

Yuri Gagarin


Visiting Lake Minchumina, site of the annual rock skipping contest, stays in my memory…

A place right in the middle of the interior of Alaska, 100 miles from Kantishna. In the distance you can see the Alaska Range. From the plane surrounded by glacial ponds, lush green, flat as a pot.

Raspberries and rose hips.

A few houses scattered around the lake shore.

And a landing strip for B2 bombers.

Three fishermen trying to land a pike…

What a trip.

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One Man's Paradise

Happy birthday!

“Only by going alone in silence,
without baggage,
can one truly

get into the heart of the wilderness.
All other travel is mere dust

and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

John Muir


Those are the words of John Muir, who was a loud and clear voice in the creation of the national park system in the United States. His travels in and writings about the wilderness of North America had an influence on many, including Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, John Muir was opposed to the government running the national park system, as he considered many politicians as being incompetent, to put it politely. He wanted the US Army to run the park system. John Muir died 2 years before the National Park Service was instituted by Congress in 1916.

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.

The Organic Act of 1916 states the mission and goal of the National Park Service, which is “…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Many voices and powers have formed the NPS into its current shape. Already at it’s 75th birthday it was recognized that “…the Service faces challenges greater than at any time in its history. The parks, many buffered by rural or wilderness surroundings in years past, are increasingly besieged by development. What goes on outside their boundaries can affect their air, their water, their wildlife, their natural and historic ambience, as profoundly as what goes on within. Natural and cultural landmarks outside the parks face similar threats, prompting pressures to include them in the park system.”

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Denali National Park, Alaska

 My feelings about the national parks are ambivalent. The idea to preserve wilderness and history for future generations is commendable. However, what we consider wilderness and how we access and manage wilderness is contentious. I am with Edward Abbey, who suggested parks with limited access by automobile. I know this is not a very popular proposition, but it is the only way to experience real wilderness, as described by John Muir. Thanks to their remoteness, size, and administration some parks in Alaska come very close to John Muir’s idea. Access to Denali, Wrangell-St.Elias, Glacier Bay, and other parks in the state is limited due to their remote location and their sheer size. Those are the places that appeal to me.

In the 80’s I spent many days and nights in Yosemite Valley. Above the valley floor it is strikingly beautiful, but I never understood, why we had 1-hour film processing and other unnecessary amenities in the valley. There was a time when private traffic was banned in the valley, which I thought was a great idea. Today, up to 21,000 visitors find their way into the valley on a peak day! Campsites are hard to get without advance reservation. The Park Service has the difficult task to balance conservation and visitation. In 1917 there were 11,000 visitors in the park all year!

I think it is worthwhile, especially on a day like this, to reflect on our views of wilderness and conservation. Do we really need to drive our vehicles into parks and expect to see wildlife and pristine landscapes from the comfort of our cars?

I think wilderness is something that cannot be experienced from a vehicle. It requires effort, sweat, patience, and time…

It is not available on demand.

It is an experience that you cannot buy.

It is priceless.

Without it our planet is a cold, dead place.

To the next 100 years!

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Life

Clouds, Mist, and Rain

“Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Rabindranath Tagore


The storms that drifted into my life lately have brought mist and rain. Considering we are in the middle of August that is not surprising. The rainy season is about to begin. Mushrooms are popping up everywhere, the first yellow leaves are falling to the ground…

The clouds have also brought colors into the sunset sky. Or is it that the sun is actually setting? By 10PM I need to switch on the lights to read. They were not needed during the earlier part of summer.

So I will consider Mr. Tagore’s advice and enjoy the colorful sunsets.

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian poet, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

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