Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Forgetting Winter

April 10th, 2019

Elusive Memories, Snowfall, Weather and Climate at home in the Sierra of Northern California

Mt. Hough From North Arm of Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. In this image, the snowline from the most recent storm can be seen clearly at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The top of Mt. Hough, the giant rock outcropping jutting out of the right middle, is just over 7,000 feet and the top of Arlington Ridge in the left middle of the whole mountain, is 7,232. (Click image to see large.)

Plumas County, where I am writing from, is the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Here the Sierra is much lower in elevation overall. Here we also have much more volcanic activity, defunct volcanoes, hot springs, geothermal vents and old lava flows weaving in among the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir Forests growing out of the Sierra granite terrain.

In our milder Northern Sierra Nevada, most mountain peaks are 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, unlike the High Sierra farther south, where the peaks range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Most people in the Feather River Region live in the mountain valleys, usually ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south to Lake Tahoe, you find the high elevation terrain traditionally associated with the Sierra, accompanied by much heavier snowfall.

Bear in mind that the surface level of Lake Tahoe stays around 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains are at about the same elevation as the base level of the peaks in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Many of the winter snowstorms that dump the heaviest in the Tahoe area bring us nothing but rain. Some years most of the Sierra receives heavy snowfall, while we do not. A smaller number of years it is vice versa. Consequently, we do not follow the various long-range forecasts all that closely, as they do not always apply.

This year was different though. We heard from many sources about the coming long, heavy and cold winter. Most of my neighbors braced themselves by getting in extra wood and supplies, putting on snow tires and updating vehicle maintenance, though we all remained skeptical. The weather itself did not seem to care whether we were skeptical, or whether the predictions were dire, either one. Winter came on very gradually and much the same as it has arrived most of the last 15 years. Our contemporary pattern for at least 15 years has been a little rain in October with Halloween being unseasonably warm and essentially an extension of what we used to call Indian Summer.

Following the current pattern, this season we received a little more rain in November, several flurries of snow that were just enough to stick in the first week of December and finally about one foot in one storm shortly after. This brought on hopes of a White Christmas, as well as fears we might be buried by then. However, it warmed up and dried out again for most of the month until it clouded up and threatened either rain or snow just before the big holiday. It snowed just after the Winter Solstice, just a skiff, which we thought might last long enough to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all finally showed up with enough mojo to provide ice skating on the local pond during the weeks on either side of New Year’s Day.

Toward the end of the first week of 2019, weather reports had people talking again. The big snows were coming, weather experts said. Most of us went ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. We had seen this before, but then it snowed about a foot the next night. Here we go, or not? The weather skipped a few days just for dramatic effect and then snowed a foot again, then again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough for everyone to know this was already a series of storms more like we used to get. It was possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, much as expected by long-range forecasters.

Since the winter of 2011, we have not had more than a foot of snow on the ground at one time. Before that 2002 was the last heavy winter where we had more than one foot at a time. Also, besides 2002 and 2011, I do not remember the last time snow stayed on the ground more than a week at a time. From the beginning of the New Millennium and probably earlier, onward to today, the snow melted quickly, even in mid-winter. Long, cold, snowy winters require different skills and different thinking than snows that always melt in a few days. They require different patterns of grocery shopping, woodbin filling and snow shoveling.

When I was a boy, I remember us getting six feet of snow in one storm more than once. It happened in 1968 when I was three years old, as well as one or two other times. Dad made photographs of me at age three in a red snowsuit sliding down piles of snow he had shoveled in the driveway that were taller than the 12 foot flat roof of the house. Once in the late 1970s, it snowed four feet on April 1st. This event we forever after called the April Fool’s snow. I also remember the snow sticking for months in the dead of winter. Most years, the snows started in October and even sometimes in September. Many winters we had snow on the ground continuously all season. Once the snow had been on the ground a while, lasting right through temporary warm spells, it usually melted a little each day that was warm enough to get above freezing temperatures, then refroze at night. The deeper the snow and the greater the range between nighttime lows and daytime highs, the bigger the icicles grew that hung from the eves, the deck railings, water drains and spouts and any other horizontal surface close enough to the house to thaw out temporarily by day. I remember Dad photographing the largest icicles that grew up to six or more feet long. Usually, the icicles never got a chance to grow that long though because he either followed along after his photographing with a shovel and knocked them down, or just knocked them down without photographing.

Dad had a rule that I followed when I took over the snow shoveling duties: always shovel all the snow off the decks every day, if at all possible. If you do not do this and the snow piles up in subsequent storms, the bottom layer of snow, or whatever portions of it you did not shovel, turns to ice. Considering we have thousands of square feet of decks, clearing them after every snowfall is not necessarily an easy or even convenient task.

I left home to go away to boarding school at age 15 in 1980 and never came back for longer than a few weeks on vacations and holidays until 2002 when Mom passed on. After moving back home to be Dad’s primary caregiver in 2002, I became lazy about shoveling snow. The average winter temperatures were warmer and cold spells lasted for less time. After any storm of less than a few inches, I hardly shoveled, if at all. This was rarely a problem since the snow tended to melt long before more snow fell. If a storm did drop more snow before the previous accumulation melted, it never mattered much, either because it would all either melt or it stayed just warm enough to keep the bottom layer from turning to ice. In the last few decades, much less ice has formed in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway has recently tended to keep ice from building up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off. Typically more snow would fall and turn to ice before it could be shoveled.

With so many mild winters in a row, I forgot about these nuances of snow conditions and the differences between heavy snow years and light ones. This year in early January, I still doubted we would have much snow when the first series of storms hit. I shoveled a path around the inside edge of the decks next to the house, the usual first shoveling pass, but left over a foot of snow on most of the decks. I was busy and needed to get back to work rather than spending an entire day shoveling. I also neglected to use the shovel to cut the snow back off the edge of the roof in the front of the house, where melting snow usually dripped to form ice on the front walkway.

As more and more storms came through, I began to realize this was a more serious error than it had been even back in my youth. As snow usually does, it compacted down over time and soon I had about 18 inches of close to solid ice on my decks. The sheer weight of this could cause damage to the deck, but the longer it stayed, the harder it would be to remove and more snow kept arriving all the time. It took me about five days of shoveling over four hours a day to get all of the decks cleared. I also spent many hours chipping, scraping and chopping away at the ice on the front walkway.

I began to realize that what happened with my snow management in the microcosm was the same thing that had happened to mankind in relation to climate change in the macrocosm. Winter had changed from what it was 20 years ago and I had forgotten what it was like to have to remove the ice from the front walk, or how critical it was to get it off the decks right away. I had been lulled into shoveling complacence, had forgotten how we used to go about it and what the consequences were of neglect. I marveled how soon I had forgotten and felt happy to be chipping and pounding away at the ice again. All was well. Then I remembered that all is not well.

When someone in a room with a dimmer switch gradually turned down does not notice how much darker the room is than before, one of the main reasons they do not notice is inaccurate or wishfully driven memory. Here in the Northern Sierra, we are generally ok with winter being less harsh. It means less work and less hardship. It makes life in the winter easier. In a dimming room, we may be happy with the room darker. Memory is an elusive critter and what it consists of is often distorted by what we want or what we like. This means that one of the main reasons we do not notice the room is darker is that we do not remember how bright it was. We do not notice or remember that the first spring flowers, snowdrops, daffodils and lupine, have been blooming steadily earlier every decade. We tend to delight in signs of spring coming earlier, even though when we pause and reflect, we know something is systemically wrong with Mother Nature. We also do not notice or remember when we have no specific markers for comparison. The particular muscle memory I have of pounding away at ice with a shovel, when I performed the act again many years later, made me realize I did not even miss doing this task. I did not ever think, “Wow, I haven’t had to chip ice off the front walkway for 20 years.” The memory was gone and with it, the awareness of any of it ever having happened.

Without the marker or any other specific records or information, I could easily have forgotten how much winter has changed. My mother’s home logs and father’s weather records kept for over 40 years tell us that in the mid-1960s the snowdrops bloomed in the second week of April. Going through the logs, over the years the bloom dates gradually shifted until, by the time I moved back home here in 2002, the snowdrops came out at the beginning of March. The last couple of years it has moved to the end of February. Thanks to logbooks and records we can circumvent our own mistaken memories. Thanks to science, we do not have to rely on our own often mistaken faculties, but we can rely on measurements and solid data.

Selling Out Environmentalists or Offering a Wake Up Call?

February 22nd, 2019

Have My Feature Blog Posts, Overall Message and Published Articles Been Selling Out Environmentalists or Offering Suggestions for How to Change Failing Methods? What do you think? Agree or Disagree?

What Is the Best Way Forward? How Can We Begin to Attain Mainstream Buy-In to Collectively Reduce Carbon Use?

Expanded from an email originally sent to 45 neighbors 12-17-18

“Every Day Is Earth Day on My Ranch,” Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde.

Last July I wrote a blog post that turned out to be controversial, not because of what it contained, but because of how people interpreted it in relation to the rest of the contents of Landscape Photography Blogger, recently renamed Landscape Photography Reader, and people’s perception of the legacy of my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde. Normally I find it a waste of time to draw attention to myself and whether people are understanding me or not, or whether they believe I do think or I should think exactly like my father. However, this is as good a time as any to clear up some misunderstandings for clarity and perspective as we move into the future direction of this platform and discussions here and elsewhere of why it matters.

The Hyde Legacy Mission Remains the Same

My mission statement did not change or waver during the last two years. It is available for all to read under the “Goals” tab above in the banner at the top of this page. Or to read it with one click now go to, “Hyde Fine Art Mission Statement.” My old and new blog readers and followers from all over the world have found and read it by the hundreds every day. I am mystified that those who made sniping comments or questioned my motives somehow missed it. This Mission/Goals statement is essentially a summary of Dad’s legacy, though there may be more nuances that come all along the way here at Landscape Photography Reader.

People sometimes ask me if I am happy, or if I am living someone else’s life, or they suggest that I ought to do whatever fulfills me. In some situations, these certainly are important concerns and suggestions. Following your bliss or your heart can be a useful idea or course correction if you have never done it. However, in this civilization, we all have perhaps followed our own desires a bit too much and not thought enough about the collective of all life on this planet, or about where we are headed and why. We have neglected, denied or ignored the big picture and pursued our individual happiness for many reasons, not least of which because we felt this easier to impact and manage.

My father’s goals in life were never about him. He was a man of service. What kind of service do you offer each day? How are you helping? What are you doing to make the world better? These are the kind of questions he tended to ask himself. His priorities were God, family, nature, and photography, in that order. My mother, self-taught naturalist Ardis King Hyde, filled in the social piece with her priorities being God, family, nature, and community.

Where the Controversy Started and the Value of Self-Evaluation

The blog post, “How Environmentalists Get in Their Own Way,” came out of a number of experiences I had in the last few years and some actions by a small few of my neighbors in the Northern Sierra in Plumas County. Even more controversial, was an opinion piece called, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” that I wrote for the local newspapers: Feather River Bulletin, Indian Valley Record, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Lassen County Times and Westwood Pine Press with the online version appearing on Plumas News under a slightly different title.

“It seems to me that the good the Palmaz family is doing for the land far outweighs any impact from landing a helicopter,” said a prominent progressive property owner in Quincy, California, the Plumas County Seat, after he read the article and the 109 thoughts from readers at the end. “The comments get a little ugly, but they are a fascinating study in human psychology,” he said.

After I wrote the article for the local newspapers, a rumor began to circulate that I had “sold out environmentalists” by taking the position I did and pointing out the flaws in the logic of certain local activists in the newspaper. Sometimes people, including myself, have a hard time taking criticism, whether constructive or not. However, sometimes a review of current methods can help anyone fine-tune and improve. Self-evaluation can help you discover blind spots and areas where you may not be getting the results you want, making you far more effective and efficient in the long run.

Why and How Environmentalists Have Failed

Environmentalists individually and environmentalism as a movement, have both had some major successes, especially in the 1960s and 1970s when my father’s photography played a major role in the development of the modern environmental movement, and while land conservation enjoyed the most popularity and support from the general public. However, the same methods and approaches that worked then do not necessarily work now. More importantly, the methods that did NOT work then, work even less now. I suggest anyone who is serious about truly making a difference and not just appearing to do so enough to make yourself feel better, make a study of Dad and his associates, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Martin Litton and many others and their methods and all other successful strategies for making real change and attaining significant impact. The last 20 years have seen environmental law weakened, water and air safety regulations undermined or revoked, the dismemberment of the Environmental Protection Agency down to a shadow of itself, not to mention little to no major advances or wins in the movement. Stopping the second half of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the US has been the largest environmental achievement of the new Millenium. Even major environmental leaders have declared the Death of Environmentalism or the Death of the Environmental Movement? Two other leaders, even wrote a follow-up book on the subject reviewed by the New York Times and called Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Meanwhile, over 70 percent of Americans in polls say they care about environmental issues. Why the disconnect? What is missing? Can it all be blamed on corporate spin and criticism by Right-Wing politicians?

The Far Right Smear Campaign

Certainly, Right-Wing extremists have been smearing and labeling the green movement as the new Red, ever since the Reds were no longer a threat after the Berlin Wall fell and the U.S.S.R. disbanded. Right-Wing media and talk show hosts have been likening environmentalists to the devil, Satan and their followers. This tactic has worked to large extent. Still, there must be effective ways to remind conservatives across the spectrum that Republicans played a major role in the establishment of modern environmentalism. President Nixon and his cabinet oversaw the passing of most of the 20th Century’s most significant environmental laws. Beyond law though and even more fundamental, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and all others like to eat safe, unpoisoned food and drink clean water.

Even so, Environmentalists, including myself when I still called myself one, generally have failed to persuade society as a whole to mobilize regarding a number of disastrous environmental and human health issues, the foremost of these being Climate Change. Our politics have so become polarized and environmentalists have often taken positions just as extreme as their opponents that obtaining mainstream buy-in appears close to impossible regarding action to stave off the melting of the Polar Ice Caps. We need to get people more interested in how they can do more and why it matters, rather than vilifying various people and organizations and telling them they are wrong, especially when what they are doing may have been a way of life for many generations. Nobody is going to change overnight, especially if they are put down or marginalized. Think about it in your own life. Do you tend to want to change when someone tells you what you are doing is wrong?

While Out on the Land Photographing Ranches and Farms, I Ran Across A New Concept

One subsection of this I am currently making my focus for research and future publication is Agriculture. Despite ingrained beliefs among the anti-beef lobby that all meat is bad for the planet and that Industrial Agriculture is a major contributor to Climate Change, new and ongoing research is starting to show that small, ecological agriculture is the most effective way of counteracting the ills of Industrial Agriculture and feeding the whole world. Animal waste is not only one of our biggest problems and greenhouse gas contributors, it is also one of the best ways to regenerate soil. The seeds of the solution are within the problem.

I highly recommend that anyone who cares about keeping our Earth liveable for people and the other life forms on which we depend, anyone with an open mind and anyone who puts our continued future above any ideology such as environmentalism, veganism, and so on, if solutions are more important to you than maintaining your current world view exactly as it is, read the book, Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman. In Defending Beef, the author, an environmental lawyer and former vegetarian, not only makes the case that cattle can be raised sustainably, but that overall, depending on how they are managed, they can have a net positive impact on our atmospheric carbon problem by taking carbon out of the air and sequestering it in the ground. Cows are not only one of the best ways to rebuild our depleted soils, but they can be one of the best ways to slow down and possibly reverse Climate Change. This is not greenwashing, not Beef Industry hyperbole, but statistical fact backed up by studies and research from all over the world. One of the frontrunners of these innovations is Allan Savory, who wrote Holistic Management: A Common Sense Revolutions to Restore Our Environment, and explains his world-renowned system in his TED Talk, How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change.

A Recipe for Optimism and My Philosophy

Also, for anyone who has become pessimistic about the future of the world or who is afraid to slip into pessimism, I highly recommend reading The Upcycle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart for a fresh perspective on how radical innovation can change how we use everything so profoundly that it is possible we could eliminate pollution, repurpose waste and keep our water plentiful and pure. For more on how we can change not just policy, but our consciousness and thus have the biggest impact on healing the planet, I suggest the audio CD: Miracles for the Earth by Sandra Ingerman.

For those very few who have spread rumors and made fools of themselves by saying I have sold out environmentalists, here is your chance to find out what I really am doing, saying and writing on the subject and why it is being followed in over 70 countries:

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

Mission Statement: Goals for Landscape Photography Reader/Philip Hyde Photo/Hyde Fine Art

Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

Art, Earth and Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way

Best Photographs of 2018

January 5th, 2019

The Work of Pioneer Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Continues Through His Son, David Leland Hyde and His Favorite Images for 2018

Some Americans may not recognize my father, Philip Hyde’s name, but most have seen his iconic landscapes from the 1940s through the 1990s, which helped make many of our national parks, appeared in a solo show at the Smithsonian and with Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, David Brower, and others through Sierra Club Books, popularized the coffee table photography book and played a central role in the birth of the Modern Environmental Movement.

This year I was fortunate to hang my own conservation photographs in my first museum show at the Plumas County Museum in Quincy, California, which Dad co-founded in the late 1960s. The exhibition was called, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States With Special Emphasis on Plumas and Sierra Counties.” Below, please find some of the images from the show, as well as other photographs made this year. I have selected my favorite 18 photographs of the year in accord with the 12th Annual Blog Project by Jim M. Goldstein.

In addition to landscapes, my conservation photography focuses on agriculture for a number of reasons:

  1. People like images of old barns, farms and ranches
  2. Agriculture is a hot and controversial subject currently because industrial agriculture is putting simpler methods and smaller farms out of business across the country, leaving American rural areas and small-towns destitute and abandoned.
  3. Industrial agriculture is also controversial because it is the primary producer of climate change triggering greenhouse gases worldwide, while small, sustainable agriculture is the most effective way to regenerate soil and reverse the damage done to public health and ecosystems by industrial agriculture.
  4. One industrial agriculture myth is that it is the only way to feed the world, whereas small, sustainable agriculture already successfully feeds over 70 percent of the world, while industrial methods only feed 30 percent.
  5. Besides striving to bring to light the differences between industrial agriculture and smaller, more sustainable ways, I also have been photographing our disappearing agricultural history.
  6. The highest purpose of an artist is to be a bellwether of the times.
  7. The art of agriculture has a rich tradition going back to the Dustbowl and Great Depression and including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Morley Baer, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, George Stubbs, Peter Paul Rubens, Claude Lorrain, Andrea Sacchi, Théodore Rousseau, Hendrik Meyer and many other luminaries.

While my landscapes have also been used in land conservation campaigns and on behalf of various environmental causes, my primary focus currently is on artfully depicting cultural restoration, declining historical resources, as well as sustainable farming and ranching. At the same time, early in 2018, I decided to cut back on making images and focus much more on getting my work out to the world. Therefore, the photographs you see below come from a much more limited selection of frames made during the year overall, compared to previous years.  I am building out my website and adding more images all the time: HydeFineArt.com

Barn on North Valley Road, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Old Barns, Grizzly Peak, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horses Standing in Snow, Old Mormon Barn, Saddlehorn Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle Near and Far, Genesee Road, Palmaz Hangar, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horse Barn Detail, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde.

Stumps, Forest and Reflections, Shore of Snag Lake, Fall, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Looking Down Indian Creek at Mt. Hough, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Indian Creek, Wheeler Peak, Early Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Leaning Tree Detail, Upper Sardine Lake, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Sunset, Maddalena Barn, Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Broken Gate Shadows, Willow, North Barn, Lemmon Canyon Ranch near Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Snowmelt Lake, Cows and Large Western Barn in Shade, Thompson Valley near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

North Wall, Renovated Genesee Store, Night, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Ranch Manager Connecting With Wagyu Cows, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Roping and Branding, Openshaw Ranch, Mt. Hough, Indian Valley near Taylorsville, Plumas County, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Fence Posts and Collapsed Filippini Barn, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Rider and Horse, Galloping West, Long Valley Ranch Near Cromberg, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle, Genesee Road, Grizzly Ridge, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Sierra Nevada, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

Best Photographs of 2017

Favorite Photographs of 2016

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

 

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

Spring Snow, Grizzly Ridge, Heart K Ranch Pond, Upper Genesee Valley, Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Environmentalists and environmental organizations often sabotage their own causes in many ways. Even while serving a vital role in protecting natural places, decreasing the use of carbon-rich products and increasing the awareness of alternatives, environmentalists also at times adversely affect nature as much as anyone else. The following is just a short list. I am not saying by any means that all environmentalists take these actions all the time. A few do and all of us do sometimes. I know about many of these by making mistakes myself, to the detriment of the planet. I have also made a life-long study of influence and persuasion, as well as what has been effective and ineffective in the modern environmental movement. Perhaps people reading this, whether they are conservationists or environmentalists, care about nature but do not consider themselves environmentalists, or the type who typically oppose environmentalists, can think of points to add to the following list:

  1. Environmentalists often assume the worst about the people involved in a given situation, who may not be maliciously destructive of nature, but may inadvertently be having an adverse effect.
  2. Environmentalists come into scenarios operating only out of their own mindset, rather than seeing others’ views, or going to where the people are who are involved.
  3. They believe all wealthy people are evil and judge people by net worth.
  4. They judge people by good intentions and words, rather than actions.
  5. Rather than trying to understand other’s backgrounds in a situation and being tolerant of others’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of ecology and natural systems, they put people down who do things differently.
  6. They forget that we are all learning how to be more Earth-friendly.
  7. The minute they purchase a hybrid vehicle or other green technology, they immediately start confronting and putting down those who are still using older, less efficient or less effective products or methods.
  8. They believe high tech is automatically bad for the environment.
  9. They start interactions attacking and confronting, with an “us versus them” mindset, rather than listening and gathering information about people’s motivations and goals before addressing them.
  10. They assume that an enemy of a friend is always an enemy.
  11. They assume that a friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
  12. They assume that a friend who disagrees with their viewpoint then becomes an enemy.
  13. They assume all Capitalists, all Republicans, all religious people, or all of the people from any given group are the enemy of preserving nature.
  14. They use fear as their primary tool to move people. They paint doom and gloom scenarios, cite perilous natural events, natural disasters and distressing statistics to scare people into decreasing their environmental impact. Educating the public about pending catastrophe or warning of dire circumstances is important and necessary to keep people informed, but over and over tests and studies have shown that used as the primary persuasion method, fear can be paralyzing and discouraging, or easily ignored while people and corporations continue destructive business as usual.
  15. They attack environmentally destructive organizations and corporations from the outside, rather than infiltrating, educating and changing them from the inside.
  16. A few of them chose to remain ignorant of the law, believe it does not apply to them, but generally believe that through mere force of thinking they are right, they can bend the law or obtain exceptions.
  17. They believe that justice and what they think is right prevails in court, rather than existing laws.
  18. They believe that hiring good lawyers means they will win, even if they are wrong or in violation of the law.
  19. Some of them believe that all good lawyers are infallible, always tell the truth, never oversell, do not mislead, and will not lead them astray.
  20. They believe that environmental issues are policy problems, rather than problems in thinking and consciousness.
  21. They think that if they disagree with a legal definition, all they have to do is dredge up a definition by a source that is more in line with their own idea of the definition and the legal definition will no longer apply.

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

As an example of just one major issue, environmentalists and the major environmental groups, have largely failed to convince individuals, companies and governments both large and small to take enough significant, consistent action to thwart the increasing pace of climate change. We have also failed to instigate sweeping changes that could protect water supplies into the future and have also been ineffective in slowing down the mass extinction of species that has been escalating for the last 100 years. Most environmentalists have refused to make any major changes personally that would lead to a smaller carbon footprint. People say they are afraid to go back to caveman days.” However, Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything said we would only need to go back to the living standards of the 1970s to avert the worst effects of climate change. Yet we perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to live much as we always have and not change any of our wasteful or bad habits, but rather avoid our own destruction merely by changing energy sources. Meanwhile, most of us keep blaming the problem on other people, the government and any other scapegoats we can find.

For example, I know people who condemn their wealthy neighbors for using a helicopter for transportation, while they themselves do a tremendous and far above average amount of driving per year just so that they can live far out on the edge of a wilderness surrounded by vast forests and an almost pristine valley, while also working in the nearest major city to earn a higher income.

One major mistake these seven neighbors, who call themselves the Genesee Friends, made in Genesee Valley in relation to the helicopter, besides espousing many fallacies and made up arguments with little to no factual basis, they failed to obtain the support of the majority of people in the area before launching an activist campaign. By far the majority of neighbors stand with the helicopter owners and their sustainable ranching, historical restoration and philanthropy benefitting local organizations.  The Genesee Friends also mistakenly claimed to represent all of us in the entire Genesee area, while also attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Even more troubling, like the worst of environmentalists, this small minority of people give activism itself a bad name. When my father, pioneer photographer Philip Hyde and his associates: Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Brower, Howard Zahniser, Olas and Margaret Murie, Martin Litton and many others set out to make the many national parks they did in the 1960s and 1970s, when they embarked on a major campaign, they made sure they had the support from the majority of the public, or a definite plan to obtain it. Not only were the national park projects more popular than the projects to exploit the resources in the places in question, but the popularity of the parks has only increased over time. Meanwhile, the few so-called activists in Genesee only render themselves less and less popular all the time. More on this in future blog posts and in my article linked to below.

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

Over the last two years I went through an unusual experience that has changed my perspective on who protects the environment and who impacts it adversely. Leading up to this experience and affecting how I perceived it tremendously, in 2015, I traveled to the Midwest to photograph what is left of traditional small farming. I went to the heart of the country to take its pulse and capture it as it is because I discovered that industrial agriculture has taken over. Old historic barns, equipment and methods are going fast. With the rise of industrial agriculture, our factory farms have drained our aquifers, lakes and rivers down to dangerous levels, turned many small farming settlements that thrived for 100-150 years into ghost towns and transformed our farms from one family operations into colossal corporate giants sustained by heavy doses of deadly chemical spraying and cancer-causing genetically modified crops.

When I came home from the Midwest, the unusual experience of having one of the one percent most wealthy families move into my neighborhood changed my life forever yet again. In the print newspaper and online version of my article, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” I explain in more detail how I came to support this well to do family and stand behind their sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming and restoration of the old barns and other buildings of our local Genesee Valley Ranch, rather than siding with a small minority faction of my neighbors who have tried and failed to obstruct, ostracize and turn public opinion against the Palmaz Family. Fortunately for our county and for the welfare of Genesee Valley, the family’s kindness, good character and generous philanthropy in our community won over most of my neighbors and the majority of people in surrounding towns. I wrote the article originally for the weekly “Where I Stand” column on the opinion page of the local newspapers printed by Feather Publishing including the Feather River Bulletin, Lassen County Times, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Indian Valley Record, Westwood Pinepress and the internet Plumas News version of all six papers.

Laying Everything on the Line, Being Attacked by Environmentalists and Trolls and What Exactly Is Entailed in Defending Natural Places Like Genesee Valley?

Also important to this subject, attached to my online Plumas News article about Genesee Valley Ranch, are  100+ pertinent, wise, and also contentious and trolling comments, along with my responses and further discussion to help people understand some of the finer points of the related issues. Check it out. When you get to the article internet page, sometimes randomly from there may be a short marketing survey by which Plumas News helps pay their bills. Take a look: “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch.”

Stay tuned for the unusual personal story and sequence of events that led to me writing the above opinion piece, as well as outspokenly supporting and contracting to photograph for the Genesee Store and Genesee Valley Ranch. For more general background and the Genesee Friends side of the story see the Los Angeles Times article, “In a Rural Northern California Valley, a Development Battle Asks: Is a Helicopter a Tractor?” The main worry expressed by Elisa Adler in her statements for this article is that masses of wealthy people will move to Genesee Valley and “gridlock the skies” with helicopters. Out of the private land still possibly for sale in the entire watershed though, excluding of course the Heart K Ranch and Genesee Valley Ranch, I am curious how much of that land is zoned for agriculture? The land that is not zoned for ag, will be harder to make into sites for helipads, now with Plumas County’s new ruling. Read my article above to understand more about this. With less chance of gridlocked skies over Genesee, the only real gridlock may be in Ms. Adler’s argument. Besides, since thousands of wealthy people have not moved here yet, it is doubtful they will, perhaps possible, but probably improbable. I do not know the exact acreage of the watershed or private land in it, but from having grown up here, my guess is that most of the private land besides the two big ranches is not zoned for agriculture. The ruin of Adler’s entire life by the helicopter, as she has claimed, is perhaps more due to how she is looking at it and purposely straining her ears to hear it, than the actual noise level or potential as a gateway to further development. I suggest reading both articles above and judging for yourself…

Art, Earth And Ethics 3 – A Photographer’s Code of Ethics

October 3rd, 2017

Art, Earth And Ethics 3 – A Photographer’s Code of Ethics

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Three

Photography and Ethics in General and My Code of Ethics for Photography

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace.”)

“The self-indulgent man craves for all pleasant things… and is led by his appetite to choose these at the cost of everything else.” ~ Aristotle

Cloudy Sunset and Runner on Dirt Road Near Oslo, Minnesota, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. #HeartlandUSA #Midwest (Double Click Image to See Large.)

Aristotle wrote extensively about ethics. He argued that the best reason to study and develop a sense of ethics is not to avoid punishment from God, the church or some other ethics watchdog, but to feel the best we can about ourselves. In a number of writings, Aristotle recommended the study of ethics, not as a pathway to righteousness, sainthood or rewards in the afterlife, but as the best path to happiness.

In light of what Aristotle had to impart about the pursuit of an ethical life as a worthwhile practice and because there is an online trend toward ethics statements by photographers and other artists, I have been pondering my answers to some ethical questions, as well as considering what questions are worthwhile answering. My questions run from basic to esoteric. My first question relates to my first ethics feature post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future.

  1. Can a person who destroys a unique rock formation by vandalism feel good about him or herself after such an act?
  2. What if the destruction of a formation is done not for the sake of mere vandalism, but for the sake of profit, performing a job, or building a company to feed your family?
  3. Do nature photographers have an ethical responsibility to the natural places they photograph?
  4. Do artists whose artworks publicize natural places have any ethical obligations?
  5. Do artists have obligations to the law?
  6. When photographers know they are one of many who will photograph an area, do they have any obligation to those who may come after them whether artists or non-artists?
  7. Do artists have an ethical responsibility to show nature in a natural state?
  8. What is Art? Is a work of art just like any other widget in any industry?

To better understand yourself, consider your answers to these questions. Also consider developing more questions of your own.

Here are my short answers…

  1. This person is motivated primarily to seek attention, good or bad. This person may be angry or expressing other negative emotions that trigger the acting out of childhood traumas. This person may feel ok about himself or herself because of denial. On further self-examination odds are this individual will admit to self-loathing, especially if projecting arrogance.
  2. Same answer.
  3. Photographers seem to be more motivated after they experience the destruction of one or two of their favorite places, or they become inspired by an energetic leader.
  4. I act to protect the places I love, the water I drink, the soil that produces my food and food I eat, as well as the air I breathe. I will minimize my impact by photographing primarily in my own geographic region.
  5. Myself and other artists can guard our peace of mind in the short and long term by abiding by the law, asking permission, getting signed releases, watching for and obeying all “No Trespassing” signs, paying taxes, reporting sales tax and otherwise running an honest business and kindly encouraging others to do the same.
  6. I follow the philosophy of Leave No Trace. Read more on the psychology and benefits in my feature blog post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace.”
  7. I like photography and other art that shows nature naturally, but I also like photography that changes nature. I feel the sky is the limit in altering images, but it is unethical to present an image as unaltered when it is. I believe in honesty and lack of deception regarding camera work and post processing. In my opinion, photographers are wiser to disclose alterations or not say anything, but not to fabricate.
  8. I will answer this in a post to come…

What are your answers? What other questions do you suggest?

Continued in the future blog post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 4 – Challenges of the 21st Century.”

Art, Earth And Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace

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

Is Climate Change A Hoax?

March 25th, 2010

Climate Change Hoax Cartoon by Joel Pett from USA Today and Royce Fullerton’s Blog.

Click Here for the original USA Today posting or see Royce Fullerton’s Blog.

Clean Energy Putting America To Work

January 19th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 2010
CONTACT: Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384


Report: Clean Energy Investments Are Creating Jobs


New Report Shows Recovery Act Supported 63,000 Clean Energy Jobs Last Quarter

Washington, D.C.–The White House Council of Economic Advisers today released a new quarterly report highlighting the success of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act at creating jobs and fueling economic growth.  The report, which includes analysis from outside economists, shows that the Recovery Act has saved or created  1.5 to 2 million jobs through last quarter.  63,000 clean energy jobs were created by the $5 billion (out of approximately $90 billion total) in clean energy investments spent under the Recovery Act so far.  The report estimates that, in total, the Recovery Act’s clean energy investments will create 719,600 job-years (one person employed for one year) through 2012.

The Sierra Club offered the following comments in response. Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director “This report is proof positive that government investments in clean energy are already putting food on the table and paying the mortgage for tens of thousands of Americans across the country. Tens of billions more from the Recovery Act will be invested in the months to come, so these jobs are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of the administration’s unprecedented investments in clean energy. “While the numbers released today are very good news, even the dramatic investments made by the Obama administration pale in comparison to the private capital waiting to be unleashed. That capital–and the millions of clean energy jobs that will come with it–remains frozen because the Senate has yet to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. With millions of Americans out of work, it’s time for the Senate to get serious about passing a comprehensive climate bill that will help get America working again. “President Obama has made tremendous progress over the past year, but he and his administration can’t accomplish everything without more help from Congress. The race to build the clean energy economy is on.  Unless Congress acts soon, the U.S. will be left sitting on the sidelines as China, India, Brazil and other countries compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow.”

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