Friday, July 31, 2015

(most of) Summer 2015

I've been thinking a lot about the environment this summer, or, more specifically, the decline of environmentalism in the U.S. At least I have been since J and I were standing in a creek in Wydaho over July 4th, fly fishing, with the Tetons in full view. A moose came this far from us ... and J said apropos of nothing, "I just don't understand why more people don't want to save more of this."

Of course as a political and quasi-environmental historian, I know some of the reasons why many Americans are indifferent if not outright hostile to environmentalism. A) We still have plenty of land and water, give or take California, compared to most nations. B) During the past 40 years, the great giant sucking vortex of the culture wars has polarized environmental issues like so much else, destroying in their wake a long, proud tradition of conservative and Republican support for conservation and even regulation, and increasing the odds that those actually connected to the land in an increasingly urban society -- ranchers and farmers -- are hostile to environmentalists. C) During the 1960s and '70s, the doomsday Left offered exaggerated predictions of doom and gloom that engendered a backlash far beyond healthy correction. [Commenting dismissively on Malthusians, Reagan said, "We used to have problems, but now we have crises." So my question for Republicans is: what happened to Reagan's problems?] D) Today's environmentalists, with good reason, have doubled down on climate change, which has taken attention away from more traditional issues surrounding public lands and air and water pollution. E) And the Right, meanwhile, has doubled down on climate change denialism, bizarrely taking the rejection of science into the political mainstream.

I wonder what Eisenhower or TR would think about the fact that rejecting science has become normalized within their party's base. As a good piece in Grist just pointed out, climate change denialism unites disparate strands of the GOP; it's a "byproduct of the particular fusion of social conservatives and big business interests that came together to form the modern GOP" and allows moderate candidates tainted with the curse of being college educated to pander to the masses.

In any event, now we've come to the point when idling on a 78-degree day seems to be the norm in Salt Lake, even when we can literally see the bad air around us that's damaging babies' lungs. We've definitely crossed over some sort of tipping point of apathy. Yes, John R., I know that idling accounts for about .0004 of pollution in the valley, and yes, I know that we are all hypocrites. An academic uses more fossil fuel flying to conference on the environment (say, the Ecological Society Meetings I am about to attend) than a non-flyer uses idling all year. But to me it's the symbolism -- the proxy of indifference that people who have some of the best lives in the history of recorded history can't even be inconvenienced enough to sit in a modestly hot car for 5 minutes. I mean, plane rides are part of the good life, the whole point of living. Idling is not. And as my college philosophy teacher always said, "just because we can't perform surgeries in perfect sterility doesn't mean we operate in the gutter."

I could go on forever, of course, but I've got travel photos to show. Maybe the biggest reason of all that environmentalism doesn't even register during election cycles isn't merely the cult of growth but that endless development has homogenized the nation, diminishing our sense of region and place. We need to create more moose watchers, sure, but we also need to find ways to tie people to their little piece of the world ... which is part of the reason, I think, why the local food movement continues to grow. 

Actually, it was two moose.

Gillian is definitely not someone lacking a sense of place. If Michigan hadn't thought of the slogan first, Montana could use this picture in a brochure under the heading "pure Montana."

J had two coaches while we fly-fished.

Which was pretty silly ... Sean's an expert, but I tended to put my hook in either the bushes

or in Gillian's sister Sam's back (not pictured; everyone was ok).

After that episode I was told to stay by myself and drink a Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. Prickly Pear, brewed with real cactus. Delicious. Notice the the three main Teton peaks (a bit hazy from forest fires; look, it's dry out here).

Ho hum, another month, another global temperature record.

Can someone please in all seriousness tell me how one of the denialists' talking points is that "warming has recently slowed"? Has the rate of CO2 increase technically slowed because the curve was already approaching a straight line in 1990?

And speaking of hockey sticks, all I'm asking for is a little intellectual honesty. If you want to argue that ceaseless economic growth is worth the climate change, and that we can adapt to the latter, ok fine ... that's a legitimate if morally-dubious-in-the-long-run argument, and a lot different than pretending you know more than scientists. As far as I am concerned, the biggest story of our time is the battle between two hockey sticks (let's call it the ultimate face-off ... ). On the one hand, there's the hockey stick of climate change, pictured above. On the other hand, we have the hockey stick of GDP per person since the Industrial Revolution (ok it's not a perfect stick, but work with me. And I hereby copyright this analogy; please nobody steal it, as I am working on a larger piece along this theme).

Maybe to move the conversation forward, the good guys need to be more forthright about the revolutionary benefits economic growth has wrought since 1800 ... how would you like to live on $3 a day? ...  and then talk about where we go from here. Whether we can have sustainable growth is a matter for a separate entry (or a shelf of books I could recommend), but clearly buying local beer is an important start, especially when the hops are local, too. 

A certain brewery we've been frequenting has great views from its porch, though this shot doesn't do it justice.

The view looks more like this.

Sam with J. Anyone know of a taphouse with a better view?

In between brewery runs we also got in a good hike up Teton Canyon.

If today's lawmakers have their heads in the sand, at least more than 100 years ago the New York state legislature set aside the Adirondack Park, a very relevant-to-today's-world example of how humans and the environment can coexist (pure wilderness, the Adirondacks are not). We visited for the first time in three years or so. First on the docket was Kristin and Jason and Allison and Will, who sadly recently moved away from SLC. The upside to their move is that they brought some outstanding beer from tiny Frost Brewing. When you're next in Vermont, I also highly recommend Rock Art and Fiddlehead breweries. 

Allison and Will are pretty much peaking (and by the way, there are bigger fish to be found in them there parts).

I think it was the same fish, transferred for photographic purposes.

Uncle Jim enjoyed chatting with Allison about the history of the property tax in Fulton County, and Allison enjoyed a traditional Adirondack soft serve (don't call 'em creamies around here folks).

Her cone was free, despite being about an inch over ...

No trip to the southern Adirondacks is complete without dinner at Saltsman's 200-year-old hotel, complete with a menu completely unchanged as long as I can remember it, which is about 35 years (we love the corn fritter course above all).

Not a lot of local beers at Saltsman's, but I've always been a fan of Saranac beers, and their Pale Ale makes an acceptable session. Better than Will's Shirley Temple.

After Andy and Mary Moore and Gibson come over for dinner with a bushel of herbs in toe (sadly, no pictures; got any Andy?), next on the visiting friends docket were best man Cedar and Rachel and Caleb and Liam and flower girl Amelie. Any jokes about Goose Island beer and minivans will remain strictly private.

A bunch of my family frequents a neighboring lake, so we were able to partake in the FunStation

and also rented an absurd pink paddleboat.

I love when the clouds roll through the Adirondacks ...

but it made for some rugged kayaking. And you should try paddle-boating in high winds and waves.

Another mandatory tradition is black and white cookies from Rauch's Bakery in Gloversville, with the chocolate bottoms, of course.Vanilla base is typical; chocolate is better.

Almost five years since our wedding, I went back to Cooperstown so Liam and Caleb could go to the Hall of Fame. (Seeing Liam on Cloud 9 all day gave us a warm fuzzy feeling about the game, just as MLB intended.) Six years ago in Cooperstown (when we were looking for wedding spots), I saw Pete Rose behind a table at a tiny sporting goods store signing autographs, although he was completely by himself at that moment. This time around we spotted Randy Johnson. I mean, how could we miss him?

Got to love induction weekend.

I'll spare you a bunch of photos of Orioles-cana. Instead, this add was pretty funny. I'm guessing things have changed at Treasury.

It's not like Cedar and I didn't enjoy the HOF, but still, some adult time thereafter was warranted, especially given the Ommegang Brewery was on the way back. The tasting revealed they make some excellent beers beyond Hennepin and Rare Vos.

While Cedar and I were living the dream

the kids were ... well, I'm not sure what they were doing. Though at one point a thoroughly bored Caleb passed right in front of us beyond the window behind the bar. Not sure how they could possibly be bored ... seemed to be plenty for them to do there. 

I concede I can be pretty harsh and snobbish about upstate New York foodways, which essentially are stuck in mid-century Italian-American land. But when the side is plain pasta with, well, butter, I might have a point ...

Luckily, Amelie likes butter, exuberantly buttering her buttered bread rolls. J's Sicilian-born grandmother would be aghast to see what passes for Italian bread in this country. 

But hey, the view from dinner was unbeatable. 

Amelie, unlike Allison, refuses to pose for the camera.

But if you surprise her ...

The parting group shot ... the ones when we were trying not to squint were horrible, so better the one when we are all squinting. Kind of reminds me of an album cover with the band trying to look casual.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary of the summer. You guys have made your rounds this the dream. Great seeing you two, thanks again. Let's not wait too long to do it again.