Posts Tagged ‘Wilderness Society’

Art, Earth And Ethics 2

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness EXTENDED

February 28th, 2014

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32x40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land show.

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32×40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land exhibition.

This Land Is Our Land

Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness

Show Extended through March 18, 2014

Due to popular demand, we have extended the Philip Hyde show another two weeks, until March 18. We look forward to seeing you in the gallery.

Philip Hyde (1921-2006) dedicated his life to photographing and defending the western American wilderness, working with the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations during a career that lasted more than 60 years. After studying at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute, under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, Hyde went on to make of some of America’s most respected landscape photographs, many of which were key elements in campaigns to protect the Grand Canyon, Point Reyes, California coastal redwoods, North Cascades National Park, and other sensitive lands.

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California
415-455-9733

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

For more about Philip Hyde, Smith Andersen North and the exhibition see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

Tuolumne Meadows Parsons’ Lodge Caretakers Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale

March 20th, 2012

Photographer Hugh Sakols And His Wife Mara Dale Work As Summer Caretakers Of Parsons’ Lodge And The Historic McCauley Cabin In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park…

Environmental Educators And Back Country Mountaineers Hugh Sakols and his wife Mara Dale, Each Summer Since 2008, Have Honored And Educated About Early Conservation Leaders, While Acting As Volunteer Docents, Leading Interpretive Walks, Caretaking The Sierra Club Parsons’ Memorial Lodge And Staying In The Rustic McCauley Cabin, Much As Ardis And Philip Hyde Did In The Summer Of 1949. On This Land, Next To Soda Springs In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, John Muir And Other Pioneer Conservationists First Conceived The Sierra Club.

"Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome," Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2010 by Hugh Sakols.

(View the photograph large: “Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome.”)

Hugh Sakols first started exploring Yosemite National Park on a backpacking trip when he was seventeen years old. He started seriously photographing the Park after working as a Yosemite Institute instructor teaching environmental education. He later assisted photography workshops taught by Michael Frye through the Ansel Adams Gallery. Today he continues to explore the Yosemite back country, whether in summer or winter. He now lives just outside Yosemite National Park in El Portal, California, where he teaches elementary school during the school year. Hugh Sakol’s photographs have been used by the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Institute, and have appeared at the Yosemite Renaissance. He has converted almost entirely to digital photography, now using a Nikon D300, whereas before he often used a Bronica SQA medium format film camera and a Horseman VH-R large format View Camera.

Summer In Tuolumne Meadows By Hugh Sakols

Over the last four summers, starting in 2008, my wife Mara, and I have worked as National Park Service Volunteers. We are summer caretakers for Parsons’ Memorial Lodge and the historic McCauley Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. We are lucky enough pull this off and continue working at our “real jobs” as Educators in Yosemite National Park.

Just like the Southern Miwok people have done for thousands of years, Mara and I migrate upslope, where at 8600 ft the meadows are green, the temperatures are generally cool, and the views are striking.  Tuolumne Meadows is a glacially scoured sub alpine landscape that is the heart of Yosemite’s high country and part of what John Muir referred to as the Range of Light. To learn more about John Muir and the Sierra Nevada, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Tribute To John Muir.”

It was here at Soda Springs that John Baptist Lembert, namesake of Lembert Dome, spent his summers on a 160 acre homestead where he raised Angora goats and became an expert on local butterflies. John Baptist Lembert’s only friends in the summer were sheepherders, many of whom were Basque. At this time Tuolumne Meadows was essentially a land grab. Reportedly, in the late 1860s there were thousands of grazing sheep that later John Muir described as “hooved locust.” After John Lembert’s death (he was murdered in El Portal), the McCauley brothers acquired the land where they grazed cattle and built a log cabin. The McCauley Cabin now is a park service residence, where Mara and I live come summer.

Honoring The Place Where Western Conservation Began

Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale In Front Of The Historical McCauley Cabin, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by Hugh Sakols. Self portrait.

While at the McCauley Cabin, Mara and I have some big shoes to fill.  It was here that the western conservation movement began. John Muir saw the commercialism that was taking over Yosemite Valley and dreaded what would happen to Tuolumne Meadows. In 1889 Robert Underwood Johnson convinced John Muir to write two articles for a popular East Coast magazine. In one article John Muir described the beauty of Yosemite, and in another article John Muir proposed the need for Yosemite’s preservation. Only a year later, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to establish Yosemite as the country’s first national preserve. Soon after Yosemite became a national park.

In 1912, the Sierra Club bought the McCauley brother’s land in hopes that it would be saved from the building of hotels, stables and other improvements. The land around Soda Springs with Parsons’ Lodge and the McCauley Cabin on it, the Sierra Club eventually seeded to the National Park Service in 1973. During the Sierra Club’s ownership, this remarkably beautiful spot brought club members together for mountain adventures and a place to discuss the protection of wild lands, many of which are now national parks. The most famous early battle was probably over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley inside Yosemite National Park. Sierra Club leaders such as Edward Taylor Parsons, William E. Colby, and John Muir fought tooth and nail, but eventually lost the battle. Interestingly, the man Forest Service people call their first environmentalist, Gifford Pinchot, was in favor of damming Hetch Hetchy. Gifford Pinchot opposed John Muir in the ongoing public debate over building a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park around the turn of the century. In 1915 Parsons’ Lodge was built as a mountain headquarters and a place to reflect the work of forward thinking Sierra Club leaders.

A year after Parsons’ Lodge was built, Ansel Adams made his first trip to Yosemite National Park. After that he quickly became part of the Sierra Club where he first worked as a custodian at the LeConte Memorial and later served on the board of directors. The Sierra Club over time indoctrinated Ansel Adams to Yosemite’s High Country and the importance of preserving wilderness. This was the beginning of a close relationship between landscape photographers and conservationists.

Conservation, The Environmental Movement And Landscape Photography

Beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, Ansel Adams and wilderness photographer Cedric Wright both contributed photographs to conservation campaigns. However, it wasn’t until 1951, when the Sierra Club sent photographer Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment ever for an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde, who had been a photography student of Ansel Adams in San Francisco, to Dinosaur National Monument to help prevent the building of two dams, again within the National Park System. The battle over Dinosaur, many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement because it combined the conservation ideals of John Muir and other turn of the century conservation leaders with the hard hitting tactics of David Brower and other environmentalists of the 1950s and 1960s. For more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Dinosaur battle redeemed the loss of Hetch Hetchy to the extent that it reversed the precedent set for such development within a national park. Read about the first photography assignment for an environmental cause in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Activists are still working to remove Hetch Hetchy Dam and restore Yosemite Valley’s sister valley to its original pristine state.

In the decades that followed the Dinosaur battle, Philip Hyde, worked with the Sierra Club, National Audubon, Wilderness Society and other environmental groups, contributing his photographs to more environmental campaigns than any other photographer of his time. David Brower, Sierra Club Executive Director and head of the publishing program, used Philip Hyde’s widely published photographs in Sierra Club Books to help save such places as the Grand Canyon, the California Redwoods, the North Cascades and many other national treasures. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, not only popularized coffee table photography books and the modern environmental movement, but paved the way for photographers to be able make a living from such publications. Photographs from this time period helped spark the 1960s interest in getting back to nature and helped instigate a backpacking boom in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s first exposure to vast wilderness also occurred in Yosemite National Park in 1938. Philip Hyde at age 16, joined a Boy Scout backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. To read this history see the blog post, “Lake Tenaya And Yosemite National Park.” For some years afterward, Philip Hyde visited and backpacked in Yosemite National Park until World War II. After the War, Philip Hyde studied photography under Ansel Adams. For more on Ansel Adams’ innovative photography department, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.” During the summer 1949 break from photography school, Ansel Adams helped Ardis and Philip Hyde land the caretakers job at Parsons’ Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. Ardis and Philip Hyde stayed in the rustic McCauley cabin while Ardis Hyde studied for her teaching credential and Philip Hyde gleefully photographed. Future blog posts will share more about the Hyde’s Summer in Tuolumne Meadows. That summer Philip Hyde met David Brower briefly in Tuolumne Meadows, as the Sierra Club leader brought a Yosemite High Trip through the Soda Springs area. Philip Hyde and David Brower were more formally introduced later by Ansel Adams, which led to David Brower inviting Philip Hyde to act as official Sierra Club photographer for the 1950 Summer High Trip, one year before the battle over Dinosaur National Monument began to take the national stage. Read about the Sierra High Trip in the blog post, “Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra High Trip.”

Tuolumne Meadows And Landscape Photography Today

"Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake" Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2008 by Hugh Sakols.

(See the photograph large click: “Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake.”)

Understanding the history and traditions of Tuolumne Meadows has helped me to realize why I am so intrigued by landscape photography.  First I have always felt the need to venture into wilderness. Second, I hope my photography advocates the importance of wilderness preservation and the complexity of nature. And third, I want to uncover Yosemite National Park as a place I have spent years exploring and observing.

While at the McCauley Cabin, some of our tasks include taking care of Parsons Memorial Lodge and assisting presenters who come each summer.  Also, I lead weekly photography walks while my wife teaches Junior Rangers.  Together each Sunday we serve coffee in the campground where we are able to talk with a very diverse group of visitors. It is not uncommon to have gritty looking backpackers who are passing through on their way along the Pacific Crest Trail, a computer geek from the Silicon Valley, and a family looking for the falsely posted church service, all together around a single camp fire.The one thing we all have in common is our love for Tuolumne and of course, caffeine. It is during these informal programs that Mara and I try to instill the values of our predecessors. We remind the visitors of the challenges Yosemite National Park faces in finding a balance between preservation and access. Furthermore, we celebrate Yosemite’s timelessness by enjoying the rustic nature of places such as Tuolumne Meadows.

When I am scheduled in the Yosemite Guide, I lead a Monday morning photography walk for the general public.  During the walk I quickly go over the basics of composition, exposure, and quality of light.  Along the way I will pull out prints I have made that illustrate these concepts and show views from the trail that I have collected over the past summers. It is fun to pass them around and not worry about people handling them.  I’ve even dropped a few on the trail. I explain that for me the end product of an image is the print, and it is always fun to carry a few in a box to share with others.

Imparting Landscape Photography’s History And Significance To Yosemite National Park’s Visitors

Beyond the basics of photography, it is more important to help visitors understand what landscape photography represents today and how it co-evolved with the creation of national parks and organizations like the Sierra Club. Early photographs have documented changes in the landscape over time whether it be a sandstone tower that is now covered in water in Glen Canyon, a 1860s view of Yosemite Valley that shows a greater abundance of black oaks, or an 1870s view of thousands of sheep grazing in Tuolumne Meadows. Hopefully modern landscape photographs will someday represent our successes, failures and our human need to connect with nature.  I think understanding this tradition will help fellow photographers be more cognizant of their own impact in the park.

I also take the opportunity to discuss our increasing detachment from the natural world which could have alarming effects on the future of our natural heritage. Today our new generation of young people spend more and more of their free time glued to a monitor and show little interest in the out of doors. In fact many children do not know how to play outside unless they are playing organized sports.  Today most Yosemite visitors walk a quarter mile or less from the road. Increasingly I find visitors who don’t quite know what to do in a place like Tuolumne Meadows. For these visitors photography is a perfect way to have fun, become observant, and connect.

I am not sure how long we will continue to live in Tuolumne Meadows during our summers. At some point Mara and I want to have more time to explore areas of the park that take more than a long weekend to find.  However, having had this experience makes my photography all the more meaningful.

June 2, 2012 Exhibition At The Ansel Adams Gallery

Local artists including Hugh Sakols will show their work at the Ansel Adams Gallery on June 2nd.  All proceeds will go to Yosemite Park El Portal School.

What makes your photography more meaningful? Have you been to Yosemite or explored its back country? In what place or places do you enjoy getting off the beaten path?

On The Road To Dinosaur By Philip Hyde

November 28th, 2011

The Beginning Of Ardis And Philip Hyde’s First Trip To Dinosaur National Monument

From the Rough Draft of an Unpublished Article By Philip Hyde Originally Titled, “In Quest of Dinosaur.”

Circa 1951. Edited by David Leland Hyde 11-28-11.

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, copyright 1955 by Philip Hyde. Philip Hyde’s most published black and white photograph.

(See the photograph large: “Steamboat Rock, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.”)

The creeping death of exploitation was threatening another great natural area. Through certain members of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society including Martin Litton, Richard Leonard, and Olaus and Margaret Murie, David Brower heard and subsequently I heard about the beauty of Dinosaur National Monument and the proposed destruction of its integrity as a unit of the national park system.

On the phone, in letters and when we visited the San Francisco Headquarters of the Sierra Club, David Brower, Richard Leonard and Martin Litton told Ardis and I about the debates over Dinosaur in Sierra Club board meetings. The Sierra Club board was divided as to whether to remain a California centered organization with a primary emphasis on the Sierra Nevada, or whether to expand regionally and possibly nationally. Already other land use debates in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington were beginning to heat up. [Read about how campaigns in the Cascade Mountain Range became important blueprints for environmental grass roots organizing across the nation in the blog posts, “Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation,” and “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area.” Also, learn more the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director and his contributions to photography and land preservation in the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.” To find out more about Martin Litton read the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1” and later posts in that series.]

Word and newspapers had it that those promoting the building of two dams inside Dinosaur National Monument claimed it was only another inaccessible scramble of river canyons. Defenders of Dinosaur retorted that as a scenic and geological spectacle, it was unique in the world. Now at long last, we were going to see it. We were heading out to the far reaches of Utah and Colorado up near Wyoming where Dinosaur National Monument straddles the Utah-Colorado border. We will see for ourselves if this little known land is worth preserving in its natural state. [To read more about how Richard Leonard and Olaus and Margaret Murie, founders of the Wilderness Society, traveled to Dinosaur and how Richard Leonard and David Brower sent Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” For an introduction to why Dinosaur was pivotal for the Sierra Club and the entire conservation movement that it transformed into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the series.]

Packing and organizing for a photographic expedition of a month is a long chore. The scheduled day for departure found us still packing until early afternoon, but eagerness to get on the road would not allow us to wait another day for an early morning start. When we finished packing, we set off in our trusty Champion, leaving Monterey and crossing California’s great Central Valley toward the mountains and the deserts beyond.

Nightfall found us looking for a dirt road to turn off on for our first night’s sleep in the open, somewhere in the foothills above Auburn, California. The thrill of sleeping under the stars was still new to us, though we had both been doing it most of our lives. This was the first night of a new adventure and it quickened us with anticipation. The next day flew by as did the miles of Nevada’s Basin and Range Province. Our second night found us on an old road on a hill high above the lights of Winnemucca, Nevada. It was early June and the desert nights were still nippy, but we were warmed by the exhilaration of being out again in wide open spaces. Our third night out we spent in the “luxury” of a Salt Lake City motel before embarking on the final lap to our destination. We became tourists for a few hours of sight seeing around Salt Lake City, visiting the Utah State capital, the Mormon Temple and other main attractions of a city we had only traveled through briefly before.

The final hundred miles to Dinosaur took us up over the Wasatch Mountains out of Salt Lake City and along high plateaus covered with whole forests of aspens. Then we dropped gradually down, down to the semi-arid plains of eastern Utah, skirting the Uinta Mountains, whose snow capped summits we could see dimly in the north. Here and there along the plains among the low naked hills were green fields of Alfalfa and other crops. We came to a road sign that said, “Dinosaur National Monument 7 Miles.” This trip would be our first encounter with the infamous Dinosaur dirt roads, sometimes when wet they were made of slippery axel grease, sometimes they were nothing but a jumble of jagged rocks. The first dirt road proved prosaic enough and took us without difficulty to the Monument headquarters and the nearby Dinosaur Quarry.

We introduced ourselves to the Park Ranger on duty, Max James. He found Jess Lombard, the Superintendent of Dinosaur. We were greeted like returned relatives and offered the empty section of the barracks, which we gratefully accepted. The sky looked like it would burst open in torrents any minute, which it did shortly after we made it safely under cover with our gear.

This area was our base during that month in 1951 when we roamed over Dinosaur National Monument. It proved to be a great help to leave some of our equipment and extra film here while we were off for a few days in some remote hinterland of Dinosaur’s canyons. Our first job here involved evolving some kind of plan to see the whole National Monument. In this project the Park Ranger, Max James and the Monument Superintendent, Jess Lombard, were invaluable with their extensive knowledge of the terrain.

Because of unpredictable weather, we decided to stay in the immediate area for a few days to see the Quarry, the sandstone reefs near it and Split Mountain Gorge, the mouth of which, where the Green River emerged and would be flooded by 300 feet of water if the dam builders had their way, could be reached on a branch road about three miles from Monument Headquarters. This was enough to keep us busy for a while. The sandstone reef turned out to be full of fabulous rock forms that could have provided subject matter for the camera for weeks without stopping. [To continue Ardis and Philip Hyde’s adventures in Dinosaur National Monument see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3."]

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2

October 7th, 2011

Martin Litton: Environmentalist, Conservationist, Sierra Club Director, Bush Pilot, River Guide, Hiker, Writer, Journalist, Visionary and Landscape Photographer

Continued from the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

Chiaroscurro, Sun Through Fog, Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First published in "The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource," by Francois Leydet with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series.

See the photograph larger here: “Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.”

After seeing Martin Litton’s feature articles in The Los Angeles Times protesting proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument, David Brower recruited the young journalist to join the Sierra Club and continue the fight against dam building and other wilderness degradation in earnest.

Martin Litton and Philip Hyde made the landscape photographs of Dinosaur National Monument that became the Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and chapter one by Pulitzer Prize novelist Wallace Stegner. The controversy over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument, along with the first quality images of the area brought home by Philip Hyde and eloquent arguments by Martin Litton in Sierra Club Board Meetings, prodded the Sierra Club Board of Directors to decide to expand the interests of the Sierra Club beyond California and the Sierra Nevada.

The battle over Dinosaur not only made the Sierra Club a national organization, but also brought the cause of conservation national recognition. A number of conservation groups including the Wilderness Society and others formed a coalition of organizations opposing the Dinosaur National Monument dams. The conservation ideals exemplified by visionaries such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir, were combined with new lobbying efforts, grassroots on location campaigning, full-page ads in national newspapers and other methods that became modern environmentalism.

The Dam Builders Reach For The Grand Canyon

“Post-War industrialists in league with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found their high water mark when they reached for the Grand Canyon,” Philip Hyde explained in a 2004 interview. “World wide citizen action prevented Big Dam Foolishness from getting a foothold in the Grand Canyon. Dam builder’s influence declined from then on.” Today, there is a world-wide movement to remove dams on major rivers, but in the 1950s and 1960s, conservation groups did not yet have much power. David Brower, leader of the new environmental movement and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Martin Litton hatched a plan to stop the Grand Canyon dams. They organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. The river trip participants included the who’s who of the day in landscape photography, geology, ecology and other sciences and disciplines. Martin Litton acted as lead boatman, Francois Leydet joined the trip as a writer, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde as photographers, David Brower as filmmaker, to mention only a few. Their creative efforts and scientific observations became the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book, Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book went out to every member of Congress and with other written material circled the globe and caused a worldwide outpouring of support for saving the Grand Canyon.

Also on Martin Litton’s list of conservation successes was the making of Redwood National Park. The centerpiece of the redwoods campaign, the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource with text by Francois Leydet and photographs again by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, helped the Sierra Club establish its argument for a Redwood National Park between the California state parks along Redwood Creek where the largest redwoods remained rather than a Redwood National Park proposed by Save The Redwoods League that merely combined existing state parks. Read more on the Redwoods campaign and the making of The Last Redwoods with Martin Litton and Philip Hyde in future blog posts.

Martin Litton was the 185th known person to float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1955 and founded the company Grand Canyon Dories in 1971. He ran commercial river trips using small oar-powered wooden boats originally used for fishing in Oregon and known as drift boats, but adapted by Martin Litton for use in whitewater and renamed Grand Canyon Dories. Martin Litton wrote the introduction to a number of noted books on the Grand Canyon and other environmentally sensitive wilderness areas and national parks, as well as working as managing editor for Sunset Magazine. During his work for Sunset Magazine, Martin Litton used various made up names in print for his photo credits because Sunset Magazine did not want him to actively participate in controversial environmental campaigns.

At Age 94 Martin Litton Is Still Fighting For Redwoods

Though history has not given Martin Litton as much credit as others, at the present age of 94 he continues to work on various environmental campaigns and fly his Cessna 195. He even rowed a Dory through the Grand Canyon at age 90. Martin Litton held a seat on the Sierra Club Board of Directors from 1964 to 1973. He helped found the American Land Conservancy and served on its executive committee for 10 years. In 2005 he ran as a write-in candidate for the Sierra Club Board of Directors, but he did not win the election. His current focus is preventing the logging of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees in Sequoia National Monument. See an excerpt from the recent film on Martin Litton. He still speaks regularly on conservation, often with outrage at the logging of the Giant Sequoia Trees:

The mission of the Forest Service is to get rid of all the nation’s forests so they can start over. Under the guise of removing hazardous trees, they are taking out all the dead trees that are serving as homes for woodpeckers and owls. Their credo is to remove trees that are dead, dying, or in danger of dying. That’s every tree in the world… I feel sorry for my grandchildren. The only true optimist is a pessimist. You have to realize how bad things are before you can improve them.

Stay tuned for excerpts from my fiery interview of Martin Litton in the next blog post in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 3.” Also in future blog posts read more stories of Philip Hyde and Martin Litton working or traveling together: a river trip up the Klamath River, down the Colorado river, flying over the California Coastal Redwoods, through Grand Canyon National Park.

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 6

September 23rd, 2010

Ansel Adams Advises Philip Hyde On His Struggles While Action Is On Hold To Keep Dams Out Of National Parks

(Continued from previous blog post in the category, “Excerpts of New Book” blog post titled, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5.”)

Split Mountain Sandstone Reefs, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado-Utah, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

In 1951, the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society sent my father landscape photographer Philip Hyde on the world’s first conservation photography assignment. Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright contributed photographs to campaigns in the 1940s, but Philip Hyde was the first ever sent on assignment. As a result of Philip Hyde’s trip to Dinosaur National Monument in Northwestern Colorado and Utah, he and Martin Litton became photographers for the first book published for a conservation cause: “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country” edited by Wallace Stegner.

Philip Hyde went to Dinosaur National Monument in 1951, but “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country” did not come out until four years later while the Sierra Club worked on other projects. During those years finances were bleak for Ardis and Philip Hyde even though Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and other conservation leaders had seen Philip Hyde’s photographs of Dinosaur National Monument in 1951. “Ansel praised my work to them to the point of embarrassment,” Philip Hyde said. “But nobody was ready to fund a project to use the photographs to protect the National Monument and thereby the whole National Park System.”

In 1951 Philip Hyde’s photographs not only circulated among environmental leaders, they toured national museums and libraries. Earlier that year Martin Litton began writing articles against the Upper Colorado River Storage project in the Los Angeles Times. “The people of Los Angeles opposed the Upper Colorado River Storage Project because it would take water away from California and give it to Arizona, Utah and Colorado,” Martin Litton explained. Martin Litton wrote extensively about the damage to the Colorado River ecosystem that would be wrought by the dams and of the unique beauty of Dinosaur National Monument’s canyons.

The Sierra Club Debates Whether To Go National

Sierra Club leaders also watched David Brower’s rough movie footage from Yampa River and Green River trips in Dinosaur National Monument. The prospect of protecting Dinosaur set off the Sierra Club’s first major internal conflict. Would the Sierra Club reach beyond the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California? As the leaders and members began to take notice of Dinosaur’s unique beauty, debate ran hot in board meetings between those that favored a local California focus and those that favored a national focus necessary to prevent dams on the Colorado River and its tributaries. Preserving Dinosaur National Monument finally became the Sierra Club’s highest priority in 1953.

By 1953 the Hydes had survived two bleak years and were ready to move back to San Francisco or to Monterey. Philip Hyde’s personal journals exhibit misgivings, self-doubt but also faith that somehow they would make it. God or Nature would provide.

Ansel Adams On Isolation And Making A Living

In correspondence Ansel Adams told Philip Hyde that he would have a difficult time making a living defending wilderness. Here is a small part of Ansel Adams’ letter*** to Philip Hyde on May 4th, 1952:

The whole matter does not relate to Nature – it relates to you, and to the ways and means by which you can do what you want to do and at the same time, make a living. The latter is unfortunately important…

Let us look logically at your problem. We all have a great admiration and respect for you and your ideals. Your photography is very fine indeed. the jury for the Bender Awards was much impressed by your submissions… You have a deep and sincere interest in the Natural Scene… I think the basic motive is identification with principles which you honestly believe are imperative to the security of civilization.

However – to get back to the pressing problem which we have all been concerned – you must recognize the need to exist in the world and truly function. This you cannot do in isolation, or by condensing your life into a narrow pipeline of dogma. But to really know nature you must know humanity, because nature does not exist without humanity. You will never know Nature if you “escape” and bring yourself to Nature as a separate entity with separate and personal problems to solve.

I think that you are making a great mistake to isolate yourself; you really should be right in the middle of humanity – bringing them the messages of nature which are of real value.

With Regret Ardis And Philip Hyde Leave The Mountains

In response, Ardis and Philip Hyde bought a city lot in Carmel and moved there planning to build and leave the mountains behind. Philip Hyde’s log entry for August 20, 1952:

On the eve of our move to Carmel on August 27—Though I recognize the rightness of the change and acknowledge that it came as an unfolding of progress for us, still something of me will remain in these mountains to attend the rites of the seasons: to watch the first magically gentle falling of snow, savor the turning of leaves and burst with enthusiasm as nature bursts with Spring’s new life. No collection of cities can ever offer the opportunity of being with nature as these mountains have. The tinkling of coins in the marketplace will never still the memory of a meadowlark singing across the February snow, or the sounds of the pines when Fall shouts her warnings of winter. We are not retreating from the mountains, only going where we can find more people to sing to of them. And we shall still have our pilgrimages to renew our songs.

The Sierra Club worked on other projects and put Dinosaur on hold. The Hydes could not qualify for a home construction loan on their property in  Carmel because in those days banks did not count the wife’s income of a young couple because she might become pregnant and lose her job. Philip Hyde contracted a bad case of poison oak trying to remove the vines from the lot in Carmel. “Everything seemed to go wrong in Carmel,” Philip Hyde said.

Hyde Fortunes Improve In French Morocco, North Africa

Meanwhile, Ardis Hyde’s father, my grandfather Clint King, was a Project Manager and Design Engineer for Engineering Conglomerate P.U.S.O.M. that built and designed many of the “Cold War” bases in French Morocco, North Africa. Clint and Elsie King, my grandparents, were doing well and enjoying Morocco and they thought Ardis and Philip Hyde would love it too. Grandpa could get his son-in-law a draftsman job at the base near Casablanca. Having few other options to make a good living, Philip Hyde took the job as a draftsman and Ardis Hyde worked in the PUSOM office on the base. “They took the wings of the morning,” and went to live in the distant land of Morocco.

The Hydes got caught up financially and explored Morocco in their off time. Stay tuned for a future series of blog posts on life in Morocco. After a year in Morocco, by June 1954 back in the U.S. the battle over dams in Dinosaur National Monument finally began to heat up. The Sierra Club designed “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers” and made plans to use Philip Hyde’s 1951 photographs with a series of essays to be edited by the acclaimed novelist Wallace Stegner. David Brower became Executive Director of the Sierra Club in 1952 and in 1953 sent letters to Morocco asking Philip Hyde to go back to Dinosaur for more photographs.

***Excerpts of Ansel Adams’ letters used by permission of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

(CONTINUED THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 7.”)

The Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation

June 14th, 2010

The National Implications of Land Wars Over the Oregon Cascade Mountain Forests

Ardis Hyde On Horseback With Packer Tom McAllister From Portland At Waldo Lake, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, 1969 by Philip Hyde.

Heated land use debates in the 1950s and 1960s concerning the forests of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwestern United States, helped define the future of wilderness protection nationwide. While the battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument took the national stage sooner, launched the modern environmental movement and set a precedent that would keep industrialists out of the National Park System; the land battles over the lush forests in the Northwestern U.S. began around the same time and cannot be underestimated in their national impact.

Decisions in Oregon and Washington State affected forest management policy in the National Forest System more than the National Park System. Nonetheless, the resulting conflicts and their outcomes played a significant role in the eventual forging of the Wilderness Act in Congress and provided a blueprint for grassroots environmental campaigns all over the country, particularly in the West where wilderness came under the greatest threat of desecration by resource exploitation.

The main purpose of the post-World War II Forest Service was to supply timber. The policy of multiple use often translated into allowing various uses of public lands, as long as they could co-exist with logging. Lumber companies kept pressure on the Forest Service to provide a guaranteed supply of logs. “An era of stewardship of the nation’s public forests gave way to an emphasis on rapid extraction of timber resources,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh in Drawing Lines in the Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest. “This spawned a grassroots movement that ultimately challenged the managerial power of the Forest Service.” It was 10 years in the making, but the Wilderness Act of 1964 finally opened the process to citizen participation, giving the public a say in the drawing of wilderness boundaries. Before 1964, small citizen groups had less power, but after 1964, the two opposing forces of industry and conservation shaped the Wilderness System.

Cascades Wilderness Battles Helped Conservationists Tune Their Message To Become The Wilderness Act

In the Cascade Mountain Range, a string of volcanic peaks and up thrust rocky crags extending from Northern California through Oregon and Washington and into Canada, many groups played a role—the U. S. Forest Service, the timber industry, recreationists and environmentalists. The opposing forces consisted of timber interests and the Forest Service on one side and local groups such as the Obsidians and Chemeketans on the other side, often supported by national environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society. When enough national outcry supported the protection of an area, Congressional Law made it official but not without a tremendous fight and wrangling in and out of Congress right up to the final signing as in the case of North Cascades National Park or Olympic National Park. Needless to say, merely obtaining wilderness status for many areas engendered a terrific political and often legal war.

Originally in 1893, President Grover Cleveland established the Cascade Forest Reserve encompassing nearly 5 million acres, from Mt. Hood in Northern Oregon to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, to limit the cutting of mountain forests and to protect watersheds. Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, a pro-wilderness polemic, set a national example as his worked within the Southwest agency of the Forest Service to found the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico in 1924. Forest Service leaders such as Arthur Carhart in Colorado and Elers Koch in Idaho thwarted the inroads of “progress” into wilderness and fostered the agency atmosphere in line with Gifford Pinchot’s vision from years earlier. These new leaders in the 1920s reformed management practices and created Primitive Areas in the National Forests, which limited but did not end industrial use. “The Forest Service would later argue that these boundaries were not meant to be permanent,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh.

Lumbering slowed significantly during the Great Depression, but took off again during and after the War. In the Willamette National Forest, the volume of logs cut more than quadrupled between 1945 and 1955 and continued to increase for decades. The Forest Service began to reclassify many primitive areas without any input from the locals. Frequented by hikers, fishers and small boaters, Mt. Jefferson Primitive Area had some of the highest recreation levels of any wilderness in the Northwest, second in Oregon only to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south. The Three Sisters Wilderness lies directly east of Eugene Oregon, a progressive college town that participated fully in the 1960s anti-establishment, anti-war “revolution.”

Conservation Strategy From The Cascade Mountains Became A Blueprint For Local Efforts Nationwide

In 1954, when the Forest Service proposed reclassifying the Three Sisters Primitive Area, a widely divergent range of local hiking clubs, conservationists, scientists and social liberals, began to evolve over the next few decades into a powerful grassroots movement in Oregon and across the nation. Since 1951, when the Forest Service had tried to pass off shrinking the primitive area as beneficial to the local economy, Carl Onthank and his wife Ruth Onthank, Ruth Hopson and other local activists rallied supporters to form the Friends of the Three Sisters Wilderness. Karl Onthank, dean of students at the University of Oregon, described the leaders of the new group as “scientists who know something of our Cascade Mountains and are interested in seeing a little of them preserved for future enjoyment in their natural state and for scientific study.”

Friends of Three Sisters became an example for later site-specific grassroots campaigns. At a 1955 Forest Service hearing, local groups from all over Oregon such as The Mazamas, the Obsidians, chapters of the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society groups, Wilderness Society leaders, the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs, the Mountaineers, Olympic Park Associates, the Izaak Walton League Eugene Chapter, the AFL and CIO unions and many others rallied against reducing the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Forest Service expected a one day hearing but had to carry it into a second days when a total of 79 speakers wanted their turn. Some voiced concern for retaining recreational space, some for not allowing wilderness to be reduced over and over as in other states, some wanted to protect areas for scientific study, and others thought logging interests could make more efficient use of the existing public and private timber lands.

On the second day of hearings, Howard Zahniser, executive director of the Wilderness Society arrived and testified with hints of the language from the Wilderness Act that would not pass Congress until 1964, but that he had already begun to draft in 1955. The Three Sisters campaign was pivotal to the national cause of wilderness preservation as it would set a precedent for whether people had a say when Federal lands were reduced to benefit private industry. David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club corresponded with Karl Onthank to stay informed of developments. David Brower and other Sierra Club leaders contributed to the campaign by writing letters to the media and leaders in Washington DC, just as Ruth and Karl Onthank and their associates were doing.

Disperate Conservation Campaigns Organized Into The Modern Environmental Movement

Nationally the tide was high for conservation as the wilderness ideals of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau were hitched to a new environmental movement that employed the media, Congressional lobbying, letter writing campaigns, the courts, full-page newspaper ads and grass root organizing. At first it the purpose was wilderness protection, but later environmental campaigns strived to limit water and air pollution and other environmental destruction brought on by land development, growth and a booming industrial age.

In 1955, The Sierra Club published This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner with photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others. A copy of This is Dinosaur landed on the desk of every Congressman just as they were deciding how to vote on the Colorado River Storage Project Bill. David Brower testified in Congressional hearings against the dams and the Sierra Club ran full page newspaper ads warning Congress not to endorse a hotly opposed expensive project in an election year. The new brand of environmentalism worked. The bill passed Congress without the Dinosaur Dams and with a phrase added barring dams in national parks or monuments.

Following this national land conservation victory, Three Sisters activists communicated their position with a growing effectiveness that surprised the Forest Service, but as the struggle went on, the Forest Service defined the debate and wilderness advocates had to stay on the defensive. By 1957, the Friends of Three Sisters had lost the battle and the Forest Service went through with their original planned boundaries. The loss confirmed the fears of wilderness proponents across the country but solidified determination to push for a Wilderness Act to prevent “having this kind of battle on every one of the primitive and the limited areas,” said Karl Onthank. Oregon senators responded by sponsoring the Wilderness Act and helping Howard Zahniser and others draft it. The Forest Service decision on the Three Sisters Wilderness, swung support toward the Wilderness Act but years of conflict over it were yet to come.

Future Blog Posts share the story of the making of North Cascades National Park. For parts of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area skirmish, see the blog post “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area,” which touches on the interrelated role of Philip Hyde’s landscape photography. For a closer view of Ardis and Philip Hyde in action see the blog post, “North Cascades And Mt. Jefferson Travel Log.”

BP Oil Spill: Who Is Responsible For Oil Drilling And Spilling?

May 27th, 2010

The Quintessential Summary of the Most Important and Bizarre Aspects of the BP Oil Spill, the Response and Who Is Responsible…

Cleaning Spilled Oil In The Mississippi River Delta from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010. Photograph courtesy of Greenpeace and the Mobile Press-Register.

See also the blog post, “New Oil Spills Threaten Fresh Water.”

A neighbor of mine installs solar power systems, lives completely off the grid and drives only restaurant oil powered vehicles. He has a sign on the side of his work truck that says, “Vegetable Oil Powered Vehicle. NO WAR REQUIRED.” He was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam war, which if you dig a bit you will find was also a resource war like those of the 21st Century. Recently this neighbor had black T-shirts printed that have a picture of an oil drilling rig in flames sinking beneath ocean waves with a slogan across the top, “Happy Earth Day 2010.” His dark sense of irony is not humor.

Over the last 10 years, the battle has heated up over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Oil drilling promoters claim it would ease our pain from high gasoline prices. Fact is that the total amount of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is enough to power America’s gas guzzling habit for only a few weeks. We could “develop” far more extra oil than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could provide, merely by cutting down on driving and increasing car pools. Carl Donohue of Skolai Images wrote a quality blog post about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and recent hearings held on its wilderness status. His previous well-written post was called, “A Tragedy In The Gulf of Mexico.” The controversy of oil drilling has been in the news for a long time.

‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Has Been The Call For Too Long

On the front page of Section E of the Sunday November 6, 2005 Denver Post, the headline read, “The Big Rush To Drill.” The article covered most of the page and jumped to 4E. It discussed the future of natural gas and oil drilling in the Colorado Rockies. An area east of Parachute, Colorado called the Roan Plateau had 70 gas and oil drilling sites on it. The Roan Plateau next to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, is rich in both energy resources and wildlife habitat. The article said nothing of what would happen to the water supplies of most of the West’s major cities if oil somehow leaked into the Colorado River.

The Earth Island Journal Spring 2010 issue had “To Drill Or Not To Drill,” splashed across the cover. Members of the Earth Island Institute will remember that cover as a timely one for years to come.

The Natural Resource Defense Council issued a press release on January 26, 2010 titled, “Oil and Polar Bears Don’t Mix. Stop Shell Now.” It said Shell gave the green light to exploratory drilling off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It pointed out that though the NRDC won a major court victory defeating Shell’s oil drilling plan two years ago, the oil giant is back gunning for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again. “The shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are Alaska’s main birthing ground and denning area for polar bears…. The oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil spills in icy water.” The press release further explained that polar bears that swim in oil slick waters or step in oil washed up on shore and try to lick off the toxic oil would die. Whales would also suffocate or be poisoned and “hundreds of thousands of birds would be killed… and seal populations would be severely impacted by the spilled oil.”

A thick black soup in our ocean waters, covering our beaches, saturating our fragile wetlands, and destroying aquatic life and industries, is not the only legacy of oil drilling and spilling. Robert Redford in 2009 warned us in an article for the Natural Resource Defense Council, “We Can’t Drill Our Way Out of This Mess.” In November 2008 just after Barack Obama was elected, Robert Redford also wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which he said, “Part of the change Americans just voted for in overwhelming numbers was to move away from the failed energy philosophy of ‘drill, baby, drill’ to a more farsighted strategy.”

Even after the spilled oil began to wash ashore on the Gulf Coast and President Barack Obama had put a freeze on additional oil drilling permits, there were still 17 offshore oil drilling projects that were given the go-ahead without any hesitation. Isn’t it time to say enough? To find permanent alternatives? Currently it is difficult for elected representatives of the American people to make any more than small changes in any policy because corporations now legally have the same rights as citizens. This further escalates the manipulation of the political process that has been increasing for years. Is this government by the people, for the people or a free system? Our political process is like a giant Super Bowl ad, produced by the companies with the deepest pockets. What will happen in 10-15 years when fossil fuels are much more scarce? Will we keep burning fossil fuels until we can hardly breathe and have to walk in sludge everywhere? We cannot allow corporate greed and an obsession with growth to dictate our future. Growth enriches the few and leaves most of us worse off.

Who Is Responsible for the BP Oil Spill?

It’s time we snap out of our denial. Who is responsible for the BP Oil Spill? Every single one of us who drives a car, truck or bus that is powered by petroleum. I think I am doing my part. I recycle. I drive very little, less than 8,000 miles a year, even with all my traveling. I eat local, organic food. I minimize my footprint. However, I realize none of this is enough as long as I am contributing to the need for offshore oil drilling or any kind of oil drilling. Now that I have been jarred out of my complacence, I plan to buy an all-electric car as soon as possible. Hello, they have been available for some time. And, don’t believe the propaganda about batteries not being good enough yet. I highly recommend the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It is an eye-opener.

For weeks now I have been inundated with BP Oil Spill press releases from the environmental organizations to which I subscribe. I have been listening every day on NPR for blow-by-blow updates on the unfolding tragedy. If you want to make yourself sick, do an internet search on the BP Oil Spill and read the articles and comments. I feel I may have something to say about this maritime Chernobyl, but frankly I have not been sure what to add to the maelstrom, other than the idea that every one of us who uses petroleum is part of the problem and partly responsible. Here’s a timeline of the bizarre developments in this Century’s largest environmental catastrophe:

Wacky Timeline Of An Oil Drilling Maritime Chernobyl

April 20, 2010: Environmental Defense Fund issued a press release outlining how damaged ocean ecosystems are and how only 25 percent of U.S. Fisheries will be able to continue. The majority of all fishing communities are already on the brink of collapse. Catch shares, a method of regulating fishing and stabilizing the 50 fish stocks that are threatened has been working and could be expanded with introduction to Congress. Read More >>

April 20, 2010: two days before Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform located 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast suffered a catastrophic explosion that caused the oil drilling platform to sink. Nearly a mile below the Gulf of Mexico water’s surface an oil gusher started with an oil well blowout. Eleven oil drilling rig workers are missing and considered dead, while 17 others were injured. In Depth Summary >>

April 21, 2010: National Public Radio later said that President Barack Obama held an emergency White House meeting about the BP Oil Spill disaster.

April 22, 2010: Earth Day: Celebrations worldwide mark the 40th Anniversary of the day that commemorates environmental awareness. Much of this year’s focus is on the development of energy alternatives to petroleum and coal.

CNN Breaking Oil Spill News Story Titled: “Exploded Oil Rig Sinks! (DRILL! BABY! DRILL! HAPPY EARTH DAY!)”

April 23: The New York Times and other major media first reported the BP Oil Spill catastrophe three days after it occurred. Treehugger blog in its BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet said the oil spill was reported on April 20 but does not identify who reported it. I can not find any reports before April 23 in the online versions of the major papers. If anyone finds it sooner, let me know which media.

April 30: The Nature Conservancy reported that the first wave of oil came ashore around noon, approximately 45 miles south of New Orleans on the Mississippi River Delta. The seas were running six to eight feet high and an abnormally high tide made it impossible for responders to employ the booms that would normally help to contain the oil slick.

An Environmental Defense Fund press release quoted an e-mail from Paul Harrison, Senior Director for Rivers and Deltas, leader of EDF’s Coastal Louisiana restoration campaign for the last four years writing from the Gulf Coast, “News accounts can hardly do justice to the epic human and environmental tragedy that is unfolding…. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to sustainability…. It appears that the oil slick will most directly devastate the salt marshes and the species that rely on them along the coast—including hundreds of migratory bird species that are nesting and breeding as we speak. This area also produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters. We are doing everything possible to coordinate with our colleagues at National Audubon, NWF, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Gulf Restoration Network, and others—as well as coastal community contacts—to monitor the extent of the damage and provide whatever support we can. For those interested in doing what you can to help go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Website, where you can sign up to volunteer.

May 2: Greenpeace issued it’s new “Spill, Baby, Spill” bumper sticker to raise awareness and funding for oil spill cleanup support and to fight new oil drilling.

May 3: Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate and the Alaskan who added the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” to the language said that even though the BP Oil Spill is potentially the worst ever, it is no cause for giving up off-shore drilling.

May 5: The Sierra Club’s new Executive Director Michael Brune reported on his visit to the Gulf Coast. He described oyster boats and crab nets sitting idle and out of work and the size of the spill reaching up to 76 miles from its source. “You can’t see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region. Now BP is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability…This disaster is a wakeup call. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately. We need to eliminate subsidies and giveaways to companies like BP, which had more than $5.5 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off of oil by promoting clean energy solutions that already exist, we just need the political will to implement them.”

May 7: Matter of Trust collected hair clippings from thousands of salons, barber shops, even pet groomers across the country, along with pantyhose and stockings — all to be used to help mop up the oil threatened wildlife and livelihoods in the oil’s path. Read More >>

May 8: The Sierra Club, fishing industry, shrimpers, and local leaders rally in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, Louisiana and call for BP disaster response and clean energy solutions. Read More >>

May 11: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the environmental and economic impacts of the BP offshore oil drilling disaster. Witnesses from BP America and Transocean Ltd. testified, along with fishing and tourism industry representatives and environmental scientists. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced reforms to the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling operations. Read More >>

May 12: The White House unveiled a legislative package to respond to the BP Oil Spill Disaster. The
 Sierra Club called for an oil drilling moratorium and a clean energy policy. Read More >>

May 13: The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson and Frank Lautenberg. It would raise the liability caps for oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion to help ensure that they pay the full costs of economic and environmental disasters caused by their negligence. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) blocked the act by objecting to a voice vote on the measure. Read More and see the video >>

May 17: Rush Limbaugh blamed the Sierra Club for the BP Gulf Oil Spill. He asked his listeners, “When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?” and blamed “the greeniacs” for driving oil drilling offshore. Sierra Club supporters responded with outrage and donations to the Sierra Club. The response has been enough for the Sierra Club to launch a new fund-raising campaign in Rush Limbaugh’s name. The goal is to make Rush Limbaugh the Sierra Club’s top fund raiser.

The League of Conservation Voters sent out a press release called, “Dirty Politics Spilling Into The Gulf.” The press release said, “In 2009 alone, oil companies spent $154 million to lobby to perpetuate the oil addiction that led to the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.”

May 20: The Nature Conservancy issued a press release announcing a video made just before the oil came ashore. The video gave insight into the role marshes have in protecting valuable wetlands in the region. The press release also directs readers to the Nature Conservancy’s blog that will feature regular Oil Spill updates from an ecological standpoint.

May 24: National Public Radio reported that independent scientists estimated the amount of oil spilling daily could be as much as 10-20 times BP’s estimates of 5,000 barrels.

May 25: The Los Angeles Times reported that Sarah Palin accused President Barack Obama of a slow response to the BP Oil Spill because he had campaign support from oil companies. She questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that the oil companies do not consider Obama an ally, “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.” The oil and gas industry donated $2.4 million to Sarah Palin’s running mate, John McCain, in the 2008 election, and $900,000 to Barack Obama, said the Center for Responsive Politics.

The U. S. Inspector General’s investigation of the Minerals Management Service that was overseeing offshore oil drilling said that MMS staff members “accepted tickets to sporting events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography…. An inspector for the Minerals Management Service admitted using crystal methamphetamine…at work. The report cites a variety of violations of federal regulations and ethics rules at the agency’s Louisiana office.” Read More >>

The Wall Street Journal reported, “BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster.” While the well was in progress it threw up many challenges to BP, “swallowing expensive drilling fluid and burping out dangerous gas. Those woes put the Gulf of Mexico project over budget and behind schedule by April 20… BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout…. BP for instance, cut short a procedure involving drilling fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem, according to documents belonging to BP and to the drilling rig’s owner and operator, Transocean Ltd. BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co. Once gas was rising, the design and procedures BP had chosen for the well likely gave this perilous gas an easier path up and out, say well-control experts. There was little keeping the gas from rushing up to the surface after workers, pushing to finish the job, removed a critical safeguard, the heavy drilling fluid known as “mud.” BP has admitted a possible “fundamental mistake” in concluding that it was safe to proceed with mud removal, according to a memo from two Congressmen released Tuesday night.

May 28: President Barack Obama’s 30-day moratorium on new oil drilling will expire. Arctic drilling is set to proceed. Read More >>

BP Accountability, By the Numbers

[From a Sierra Club press release. Courtesy of Progressive Media.]

$450 MILLION…The estimated total BP has spent so far to clean up its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

$93 MILLION…BP’s daily profit during the first quarter of this year.

5…The approximate number of days of BP’s profits that would cover its total cleanup costs thus far.

11 percent…The percentage of Americans who hold a positive view of BP, according to a new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

2 percent…The size of the current leak relative to what BP promised federal regulators it could handle in its drilling permit application.

260…The number of failure modes the supposedly “fail-safe” blowout preventer used on BP’s leaking Mississippi Canyon 252 well head.   
 

6…The number of dead dolphins that have washed up along the Gulf Coast.

87…The number of dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf coast.

6,414…The number of claims filed against BP so far, mostly from fishermen and others for lost wages.

400,000 pounds…The amount of hair collected and being sent to the Gulf to be used to soak up oil.  In response to the spontaneous, nationwide outpouring of hair, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a fact sheet stating: “Recent reports of a need for hair are exaggerated and not helpful to the response effort.” Meanwhile BP may still attempt a widely-ridiculed “junk shot” using golf balls, old rope, and shredded tires to slow or stop the leaking oil.

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 2

February 1st, 2010

The Campaign to Keep Dams Out of Dinosaur National Monument and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism in the United States 2

Revised April 5, 2006

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

David Brower and Philip Hyde at 2000 NANPA Summit by Ardis Hyde with throw away camera. Both David Brower and Philip Hyde received Lifetime Achievement Awards from NANPA for their contributions to conservation. Their collaboration began on a 1950 Sierra Club High Trip. The first major battle over Dinosaur National Monument, many have said, ushered in the age of modern environmentalism. Such notables as Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner, Sierra Club Leader, photographer and journalist Martin Litton and others also led the fight.

…Meanwhile three states away, in the remote northeast corner of Utah, the town of Vernal, like many other small towns around the West, celebrated the possibility that it would soon become a boomtown too. In 1948 the Upper Basin Compact between the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, divided the upper basin share of the Colorado water. By 1950, the Bureau of Reclamation or “Bureau of Wreck The Nation” as environmentalists called it, had plans for ten dams in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Vernal was the closest town of any size to two dams proposed on the Green River within the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, one at Split Mountain and one at Echo Park. The Bureau of Reclamation enlisted the political support of Vernal businessmen for the nearby dams that would in turn prosper the local economy.

National Park Service Director Newton Drury felt that the National Park Service must respond to the local desire for water development and avoid a direct confrontation with the Bureau that might lose Dinosaur National Monument irrevocably to dams. The two proposed dams would have inundated 91 out of 101 river miles within the monument. Newton Drury thought the monument boundaries could be redrawn or a compromise secured at the last minute. Therefore, he went along with Bureau of Reclamation plans and “signed a secret ‘memorandum of understanding’ which essentially stated that the National Park Service would not interfere with water projects in Dinosaur National Monument or in Grand Canyon National Monument,” Reported Jon Cosco in Echo Park: Struggle For Preservation.

Richard Leonard, Executive Board Member and Secretary of the Sierra Club, also was elected to the council of the Wilderness Society in 1948. Leonard attended the Wilderness Society’s annual meeting in 1950, held in Twin Springs, Colorado. After the meeting, the founders of the Wilderness Society, Olaus and Margaret Murie, Richard Leonard and others visited Dinosaur by automobile. They approached by U.S. Highway 40 from the East.

U.S. Highway 40 rolls across Northern Colorado over arid auburn hills and plateaus covered with sagebrush and an occasional squat Juniper tree. The faint taste of powdered-dry dirt underlies the sweet earthy smell of sage. Low plateaus rise in the distance. Sculpted sandstone cliffs stand in tans, pinks and browns against the azure sky where tufted clouds flirt with the sun. The open vistas periodically collapse into eroded gray-brown clay badlands where flash flood torrents tear gullies and gashes in the open land.

Today, beyond the billboards at the eastern edge of the town of Dinosaur, Colorado, across the Utah-Colorado Border from Vernal, a small sign for Harper’s Corner points north along a two lane road that in 1950 was a dirt track. Immediately on the right of the Harper’s Corner road, the Dinosaur National Monument Headquarters and Visitor Center, a tan stone building blends into the surrounding sage. U.S. 40 is not a heavily traveled route and people passing by the Harper’s Corner turnoff must watch carefully or miss Dinosaur National Monument completely. The gentle sloping terrain offers no hint of the vast sculpted canyons of the Yampa River and Green River, the monument’s scenic highlights less than 20 miles to the North.

“Dinosaur is one of the best places in the country to observe the stars,” Sue Walter says in her Park Ranger talk at the Visitor Center, “because of its great distance from any city lights: four hours by car from Denver and six hours from Salt Lake City. Dinosaur in still air is quieter than a Hollywood sound stage,” For many decades after Woodrow Wilson legislated the monument in 1908, ranchers and a few paleontologists were the only people that set foot in the area.

The majority of visitors today experience only the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the monument, approached from the West Entrance road out of Jensen, Utah. The Dinosaur Quarry is the world’s largest excavation site preserved indoors and the origin of the most dinosaur bones in museums in the United States. A 300 foot long steel-beamed concrete roof with steel-framed glass walls protects an acre-plus of hillside containing fossil remains in a half-excavated state. A shuttle takes sightseers from the Quarry parking lot up to the museum, and by way of recorded message takes people “back in time 150 million years” to a period when an ancient river flowed northeast toward a distant sea, the opposite direction of the Green River today. In our current geological age, the Green River flows south and the Yampa River joins the Green River from the northeast. Over millions of years the plateau gradually uplifted more than 4,000 feet, while the rivers lazily cut deeper, maintaining the gentle meanders characteristic of rivers with a gradual vertical drop. The wide river bends carved from sandstone are unusual because rivers usually cut through bedrock in steep gradients that form straighter, more V-shaped canyons. The canyons of Dinosaur National Park reveal even more geological time than the Grand Canyon, more than a billion years of rock layers, Ranger Sue Walter also explains.

The best way to see the carved scenery is by river boat and the Wilderness Society group did this one day. They also did as people often do today, they viewed the canyons by driving in from the Colorado side out of the town of Dinosaur, following the Harper’s Corner Road to the plateau top and beyond, skirting the river canyons for a total of 32 winding miles one-way to Harper’s Corner Overlook. This route branches into side roads to various overlooks and ends one mile shy of the pastel-red-to-tan 2,300 feet tall sheer walls of Harper’s Corner. Twenty-six miles from headquarters, a rough dirt road plunges down the cliff face through Sand Canyon to a homestead ranch, then on down to the Green River and Echo Park, the verdant “heart of Dinosaur.” Echo Park was named by John Wesley Powell, its first White explorer, because John Wesley Powell noticed that his men’s voices echoed off the side of Steamboat Rock. Echo Park is the focal point of the labyrinthine canyon country where a nearly 800-feet-tall-squared-off loaf of rock called Steamboat Rock stands as Dinosaur National Monument’s most prominent landform. The rough dirt road into Echo Park forks into other rougher roads only passable by four-wheel-drive vehicles. These sometimes muddy and often rocky tracks provide a closer look at various grottos and valleys of the Yampa river canyon. Here the canyon rises red, orange, tan, yellow, gray, pink, black and brown in painted sandstone walls. Exposed are over one billion-years of strata, the many-color stained river undercuts and the oasis called Echo Park or the Grand Overhang on the Yampa River, where a rock dropped from the top lands on the opposite bank at low water flow in the summer and fall.

The Escalante Overlook is the first branch off of the Harper’s Corner Road…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 3“)

58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 2

January 18th, 2010

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, 1972, by Philip Hyde. From the Reprint of "Island In Time: Point Reyes Peninsula." (Out of Print)

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1“)

Why did the pair spend one third of their lives pursuing this unusual brand of adventure?

As the 1950s became the 1960s, groups like the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Izaak Walton League, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation brought public attention to protecting and enjoying nature. Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society authored the Wilderness Act legally defining wilderness. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out in protest of chemical spraying and exposed corporate environmental negligence. The same year, Sierra Club Books released In Wildness Is The Preservation of the World with color photographs by Eliot Porter with quotes from Henry David Thoreau and Island in time: The Point Reyes Peninsula by Harold Gilliam with photographs by Philip Hyde. These were the first two widely distributed books with large color fine art landscape photographs sharing the beauty of nature. While Eliot Porter’s book was all color, Philip Hyde mixed beautiful vintage black and white photographs with large color plates. Dad was recognized as a master of both mediums, though as color caught on, Porter’s book sold more copies. A handful of photographers, through the Sierra Club and its leader David Brower, brought wilderness right to the United States Congress and Senate and into living rooms across the country. The Sierra Club had reinvented the large picture book as the Exhibit Format Series. These high-quality coffee table volumes represented, as never before, the wild places the Sierra Club wanted to protect.

Photographs first helped preserve wilderness in 1864, moving President Abraham Lincoln to establish Yosemite as the world’s first scenic land preserve. Yet in the 1950s and 1960s the use of the camera to defend wilderness reached its zenith. More preserves, wildernesses, National Parks and Monuments formed out of campaigns by environmental groups than ever as America’s leaders and people saw natural landscapes through a “new” medium. During the heyday of the Sierra Club publishing program, Club membership grew exponentially. The first book in the series, This Is The American Earth featured primarily the work of Ansel Adams though other well-known western photographers such as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Pirkle Jones, Minor White and Cedric Wright had one or two photographs. Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde became the primary illustrators of the series. Dad’s photographs in particular, appeared in eight out of the sixteen books published in the sequence. Several volumes in the series became bestsellers and this combined with Washington DC lobbying, brought the Sierra Club into national prominence.

After marrying in June 1947, Dad and Mom joined the Sierra Club later that year while Dad started photography school. The Club had just over 900 members, but within the next two decades the ranks swelled to over one million. Other conservation organizations like the Wilderness Society also grew exponentially and many new organizations formed.

Photography itself had undergone a transformation as well. Soft focus pictorialism dominated the first third of the 1900s. Few photographers successfully bucked the trend toward printing on canvas and other art papers, soft focus and special effects that made photographs resemble paintings, until Alfred Stieglitz published a magazine called Camera Work in which he began to encourage what he called “straight photography.” Photographers in the Western United States increasingly made photographs of landscapes without people. Only a few pioneers had captured landscapes previously, they were not common. In 1932 photographers Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams formed Group f.64 in San Francisco. Named after f.64, the smallest lens setting enabling the most detail in a photograph, the group composed a manifesto limiting “members and invitational names to those workers who are striving to define photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods… Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.”

In the mid 1940s, Group f.64 member Ansel Adams founded a fine art Photography Department, the first ever of its kind, at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute. When Ansel Adams first started the department, students of painting, sculpture and other disciplines erupted into a school-wide protest against photography being part of a fine art school. In those days, photography was not considered an art form, let alone a fine art. Yet Ansel Adams persisted with encouragement and support from San Francisco art patron Albert Bender and other California art movers, as well as fellow photographers such as Paul Strand in the Midwest, whose work appeared in Camera Work, and from Alfred Stieglitz himself. Group f.64 members Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham helped teach at the California School of Fine Arts. Besides Philip Hyde, the program turned out such notable photographers as Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Wong, Bill Heick, Cameron Macaulay, Benjamen Chinn, Don Whyte, Rose Mandel, Bob Hollingsworth, Stan Zrnich, Pat Harris Noyes, David Johnson, Ira Latour, Gerald Ratto, John Upton, Walter Stoy,  and others.

With three years of photography school and a certificate of completion, Dad built on what became known as the west coast tradition and went on to influence a generation of nature photographers with his simple, understated forms and subtle desert and mountain landscapes.

“Dear Phil,” Minor White, lead instructor at CSFA, wrote in a letter to Dad in 1950, “Your pictures are as clean as Ansel’s, with a slant of your own seeing. You are starting your career as few of my students have done. In a way I envy your present mastery of the medium…”

By 1971, Ansel Adams wrote that Philip Hyde was “one of the very best photographers of the natural scene in America.” Ansel Adams said he liked Dad’s photograph, “The Minarets from Tarn Above Lake Ediza,” better than his own photograph of the Minarets in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. In 1999, American Photo Magazine named Dad’s “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon” one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. Dad’s work appeared in more than 75 books, 130 newspapers, 100 exhibitions and over 60 magazines including Audubon, Wilderness, Life, National Geographic, Aperture, Newsweek, Time and Reader’s Digest. He has received many awards including one for lifetime achievement from the North American Nature Photography Association in 1996 and the Albert Bender Award in 1956. The principal artist in over a dozen books, he also wrote magazine articles and an autobiographical essay to accompany his photographs and the writings he selected of John Muir’s in The Range of Light (1992). Dad wrote the text for Drylands: The Deserts of North America (1987), which won three literary awards. Beginning in the 1970s he taught photographic workshops for more than 30 years for organizations such as the Museum of Northern Arizona, John Sexton Workshops, Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops in Yosemite and many other schools of photography.

Dad and Mom stand as examples of how to tread lightly on the earth and find satisfaction in a simple self-sufficient lifestyle. Early in Dad’s career he made a decision to live in the mountains of Northeastern California far away from the photography marketplace. By living in such a remote place, he also gave up the opportunity to be more involved in the Sierra Club and other organizations. With fewer book signings, gallery openings and connections he sacrificed greater financial success to live close to nature.

Mom worked by his side from the beginning. While he attended the California School of Fine Art she worked as the receptionist at the school. Later she became known as an excellent kindergarten teacher and was renowned in the mountain valleys of Plumas County for her knowledge of birds, plants, organic gardening and natural cuisine long before it became popular. Dad thought he would go on working and making photographs his entire life, but in the summer of 1999 he began to lose his eyesight, and within a year he was completely blind.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 1977, by Philip Hyde. Made more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde photograph. Example of Straight Photography and colorful enough without amping up the saturation.

Yet Dad proved there is more to vision than eyes and more to seeing than vision. He was one of the first to visualize a civilization in harmony with all life rather than exploiting the Earth as a commodity. In his photography training, as in any good art training, he learned to see deeply. Photography is the art of seeing patterns, forms, relationships that the untrained eye would not see. One day in 1987 he slowed his gait as he passed through our yard at home. He stared at the Virginia Creeper Vines against the weathered gray cedar siding of the house he built. Besides autumn reds, yellows and oranges contrasting with unturned green leaves, some of the leaves reflected blue from the sky. Most eyes do not notice the blue because we automatically edit it to green, the expected color for leaves without the reflected sheen. He ran inside and gathered his wooden Reis tripod and 4X5 Baby Deardorf view camera and set up on our front lawn for one of his most widely-published and exhibited photographs.

By late 2001, his 58-year photography career ended suddenly as his sight fully faded to black and he could no longer make photographs or even print them in his darkroom. Mom acted as his guide, business manager and constant companion. She tried to do the work of two people, keeping up with the photography business and finances as well as maintaining the grounds, house and kitchen. Then the second devastation arrived, Mom died suddenly in March 2002.When she passed on, I moved back to the mountain home where I was born, from my place across the country in upstate New York. We cried, reminisced and cried some more. Sometimes we screamed into the lonely woods, at the sky, at the stars, but the night absorbed it all. In time we began to talk on tape about the many wilderness miles we walked together. Dad described his adventures with Mom seeking the “Good Life” while helping to protect such places as Dinosaur National Monument, The Grand Canyon, The California Redwoods, and many other seashores and wilderness areas of the American West.

Until his death in 2006, I read him the environmental news almost daily. He relied on dreams for glimpses of the natural world he spent a lifetime defending. We sought to make sense of the loss of my mother; the loss of Dad’s eyesight and the state of environmental decline and violence the world is in today. Dad sometimes wondered why he worked so hard. Unfortunately environmental battles are never won, they are merely postponed. The dam site is still there, the mineral resources are still in the ground, the trees are still uncut, the road plans may some day yet destroy the pristine meadow. The beaches are always ripe for new hotels and condominiums. Nonetheless Dad saw clearly two possible visions for the future. In one we continue to poison our home until we destroy ourselves. In the other we learn to live in harmony with life and sustain ourselves on this planet perpetually. In the chapters that follow, I retrace the wanderings of Ardis and Philip and sometimes me tagging along, throughout the wilds on an odyssey through remote terrain from Alaska to Switzerland to Mexico to Southern Utah, my dad’s favorite state besides his home in the mountains of Northern California. All with the purpose of offering a glimpse of how one family lived and did what they could to make a difference and inspire others to do the same, to bring about the future with the most possibilities.