Posts Tagged ‘Plumas National Forest’

Dixie Fire Update on Philip Hyde Studio and Archive, Hyde Home and David Leland Hyde’s Safety

November 25th, 2021

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The Dixie Fire, Philip Hyde Historical Wilderness Photography Archive and David Leland Hyde

The Hyde Home and Photography Studio Has Just Survived the Largest Single Incident Wildfire in Known California History

The Fire Threatened Three Times Over Three Months

Hand Line Below the House After Dixie Fire, Rough Rock, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. Many thanks to the Inyo Hotshots from Bishop, California for all the excellent work they did on my property. During “Round 1” they cut one hand line and more than 40 days later when Grizzly Ridge became the biggest threat during “Round 3,” the Alhambra Fire Department from Orange County cut another hand line closer to the house. (Click to View Large.)

The Dixie Fire dangerously threatened the Hyde family home, named Rough Rock in 1957, and the Philip Hyde Studio, here in Old Mormon Canyon near Genesee, on three separate occasions over three months of hell. Once the Dixie Fire approached after combining with the Fly Fire into a raging wind-driven firestorm. It came whipping up Mt. Hough and into the Montgomery Creek watershed where fire crews somehow held it at Mt. Hough Road about two miles from home where I could see the gigantic flames towering high above the trees.

The second time the Dixie Fire came to get me, it first made national news by blowing through the beloved town of Greenville like a tornado and on across Indian Head, Keddie Ridge, Keddie Point, North Arm, through the Moonlight Fire Scar, changed direction with the north and west winds, jumped the five lane fire line on Beardsley Grade, roared down the Hosselkus Creek drainage into Genesee and down Hinchman Ravine into Genesee Woods, spotted onto Mt. Jura north of me and backed down Mt. Jura, finally burning one third of my property, everything north of Genesee Road, stopping 100 feet from my front door.

The third time, during a north wind in August, Dixie Fire spotted miles south onto Grizzly Ridge and began to once more threaten American Valley neighborhoods including Chandler Road, East Quincy, Greenhorn Ranch and on out east toward Portola, Lake Davis and eventually US Highway 395. The fire in my neighborhood ranged back and forth across Grizzly Ridge for over two months with spot fires all over the mountain face. One time it spotted as close as half a mile up Indian Creek from my home. Hotshot crews somehow miraculously put that spot out before it spotted again, or took off like many of the other spot fires on the Dixie fire. The east side of the fire raced off and scorched most of Canyon Dam, skirted around Lake Almanor, Chester, Westwood and into Lassen Volcanic National Park and beyond all the way to Old Station. The fire burned through the Chips, Moonlight, Walker Fire and many other fire footprints and many homes in the Feather River Canyon including most in the towns of Storrie, Richbar, Twain and Belden, but firefighters saved the bar and restaurant.

Finally 100 Percent Contained After 104 Days

I wrote the first draft of this blog post on October 25, 2021, the day firefighters finally got the fire 100 percent contained, a long 104 days after it started July 13 way down at the bottom of the Feather River Canyon off Dixie Road in Butte County near where the Camp Fire started in 2018. Within one month of origin, the Dixie Fire became California’s largest single fire incident in history. Fire repair and cleanup crews are still working now in mid November. One of the last areas to be contained was Grizzly Ridge above my house. Just weeks before the end of October, the Incident Management Team finally colored the fire map containment lines black from Grizzly Ridge up to Grizzly Peak near the Devil’s Punchbowl, for the first time since the Grizzly Spot Fire started in mid August.

When I first heard of the Dixie Fire and that it had triggered evacuations at Bucks Lake, in the Bucks Lake Wilderness, at Storrie, Twain and Rock Creek down the Feather River Canyon and in Meadow Valley, a bedroom community of Quincy, I looked it up on Inciweb, as I had previous fires in our area like the Bear Fire or North Complex and others. Inciweb did not even list the Dixie Fire. Under Dixie Fire, Inciweb showed a wildfire called the Dixie Fire in Idaho, which started before the California Dixie Fire and burned almost untended for nearly as long in remote terrain, much as our fire did for the first week or more.

I have been writing about my experiences during the fire and learning about other people’s harrowing Dixie Fire stories. The fire started small and remained small for days and even weeks, burning in rugged, remote terrain. Some decisions made by fire management are questionable. I will make some future blog posts on these topics here on Landscape Photography Blogger, but my experiences, observations and the stories of others will most probably find their way into print in one form or another. For now, I have pasted below some of my more informative Facebook updates, a few of the most poignant comments and my replies.

Facebook Post July 22, 2021, 10:12 pm (Three duplicate posts)

Mandatory evacuations for Taylorsville, Crescent Mills, Greenville, parts of Quincy, Meadow Valley, Butterfly Valley and in Genesee we are on evacuation warning as a result of being in the path of the Dixie Fire and spot fires off of it.

My Comment Not sure why this keeps saying I am requesting help. I’m working to get packed and get the house and grounds ready to leave. That’s all. Everyone is doing their own around here. We neighbors are all in touch though.

My Replies to Friend’s Comments Being here is not particularly safe, but it is necessary and a longer story than most would expect as to why. Plus, a ton of work to do… Was behind on raking, clearing gutters, etc. Just trying to be less of a target if the fire does sweep through big.

As my neighbor’s son, a fire fighter for BLM in Utah, said recently, “They don’t really seem to have a plan on this fire.”

We just got back long distance and internet. Everyone who has lived here more than 20 years is still here. Things are a bit better, but the fires are still advancing more slowly. I do have a backup plan to leave. Thank you all for caring.

The area he describes in this video as steep and dangerous terrain with rolling stumps and falling dead trees, on the very tip of the farthest NE point of the fire, is 2-3 miles from my house. If they don’t hold it there, the next fire line will be beyond my home and about 30 other neighbors. [Video subsequently taken down showing the USFS Incident Commander doing a chalk talk about how dangerous containing the fire is in the steep terrain above my home.]

A Friend’s Comment The anxiety alone must be profound. Take good care, David.

My Reply Traumatic. Your empathy helps though.

A Friend’s Comment Do you have a place to go buddy? You can come to stay here for a bit if need be.

My Reply Thanks man. Really appreciate that. Probably will go to Reno, but not sure yet. May not leave at all. If I do, I will go at the very last minute, long after most have evacuated.

A Friend’s Comment Stay safe. Things are just things. Your Life is what is of value.

My Reply There’s a lot more at stake here at my home and in the Philip Hyde Studio than mere things. Still, your point stands.

Fire Damaged Trees on Hyde Property Above Genesee Road After Dixie Fire, Mormon Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. This burned during “Round 2,” when Dixie backed down Mt. Jura. It was close to the hottest part of the fire at Rough Rock. The tree trunks are blackened up 30-50 feet. There was one area nearby with no needles or leaves left on the trees, where the fire crowned, torched and scorched down to the bare base soil. However, most of the 5-6 acres that burned on Hyde land was fortunately a ground fire thanks to low wind, diligent fire fighters and decades of forest thinning on most of the gentler slopes north of Genesee Road. The steepest terrain was the least thinned and even though the fire moved downhill, these areas burned with the highest severity, including significant crowning and torching. (Click to View Large)

A Friend’s Comment Don’t wait too long. We went through packing up and leaving our place on Kelly Ridge during the Camp Fire and again last year during the Bear Fire which burned right down to the waters edge across lake Oroville from our house. Many people were stuck in traffic trying to escape the Camp Fire and road options up your way are not plentiful.

My Reply Thank you. We are not on Evacuation Order currently. My neighborhood is on Evacuation WARNING so far. Genesee Road was bumper to bumper traffic headed out toward Antelope Lake and beyond, but today there is very little traffic as Taylorsville, Crescent Mills and Greenville have already evacuated.

Friend’s Reply Good. I understand what you are saying but we were 160 miles from the house when the warning came out last year and it went mandatory before I could drive there. They would not let me back in to take prints off the walls. Just saying.

My Reply Terrible. I have a neighbor and friend in North Arm here who left home to get a few supplies and groceries… The evacuation went mandatory while he was gone. They would not let him back in to get anything out of his house. It burned and he lost ALL of his negatives, hard drives, prints, everything. A 40 year career all gone because of certain rules about mandatory evacuation that apparently cannot be changed even to save the photographs from a long career that included museum shows, permanent collections, major press, widespread acclaim, and so on. Seems very strange. I realize they cannot just let everyone run all over the place constantly and keep going back and forth or it would be chaos during mandatory evacuations, but there has to be some way to make exceptions. There needs to be better access and support for people who work from home and have their entire livelihoods at stake.

Friend’s Reply That is terrible. I think I might have run that roadblock.

My Reply It’s inconsistent. Sometimes they are really cool and lenient and other times they are very strict. It doesn’t always correlate to how threatening the fire is either.

My Later Comment We just got long distance and internet back. Everyone who has lived here more than 20 years is still here. Things are a bit better, but the fires are still advancing more slowly. I do have a backup plan to leave. Thank you all for caring.

Facebook Post July 26, 2021, 6:03 pm (Post of photograph of the fire)

The videos of the aftermath of the beautiful little village of Indian Falls really turn the stomach. I think it hits you harder when you know the place and the people well.

Facebook Post July 27, 2021, 10:34 pm

Email update just sent to family: Rained for 15 minutes today and 3 minutes yesterday. Cleared off slightly after rain. Saw sun for first time in 6 days. Smoke thinner overall. High today was still only 70 F. Low 62. A locally raised friend, who works for Cal Fire, said they have solid dozer line all around the fire on this NE side 2-3 miles from my house with hose laid and it’s looking good. No sight, glow or smell of flames. Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Deputies patrolling our Road, one every 5-10 minutes, watching for spot fires to allow all engines to be on the fire. I am nearly done with raking and have soaked ground 200+ feet out with trees wet up 20+ feet all around the house. Need to repair a roof leak tomorrow. Then I can put sprinklers on top. Keep fingers crossed, prayers going up, rain dances rolling and whatever else you believe in, please keep it up. St. Francis is here and working.

My Reply to a Friend’s Comment So far so good. Terrible shame about the beautiful little village of Indian Falls though. I believe everyone survived, but 8 out of 31 homes, or something like that, were completely destroyed. It aint over yet. It is a very big fire and only 2.5 miles from Rough Rock and several hundred other residences, not to mention just a little further away from Crescent Mills, Greenville, Meadow Valley and even Quincy, our county seat. Quincy is fortunate to be upwind from the closest part of the blaze and have much better fire line in between.

My Reply to Another Comment Improving every day. Fire crews are here protecting homes. They emphasize they are doing contingency work. There is no immediate danger, but we are on the leading edge of one of the largest wildfires in California history. My house is 2 miles from the fire line and the fire behind it is still slopping over and not fully “contained.”

Facebook Post July 28, 2021, 11:10 am

Much cooler and crisp this morning. Even though a veil of smoke still hangs in the air, faint traces of blue sky can be seen for the first time in many days behind the emerging mountaintop lit by a faint sun. Sky blue never looked so beautiful before, but with the sun out, the fire heat can increase too. I am staying alert and continuing to work my preparation plan.

My Reply to a Friend’s Comment Whew. I’m sore, exhausted, bruised and filthy. I’m gonna shower and hit the hay.

A Friend’s Comment You are a better man/person than I, I would probably be hitting the bottle! Yes do rest up and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

My Reply I might do that later if I have any energy left. There is a long way to go on this. Not time to celebrate yet, or even drown ourselves in our woes. No rest for the wicked. I’m still working, still raking, up on the roof working on a major leak so I can, or the fire fighters can put a lot of water on my roof without me taking a big shower inside.

A Friend’s Comment How do they alert you when it is so close?

My Reply No cell service here at the house. We do alerts around here the old fashioned way – community networking by phone right now mainly, email or internet when available. Or, like this afternoon, an engine crew pulled up and put a fire hose around my house and said it was mainly precautionary just in case. The fire has been at more or less the same acreage for 2-3 days and has good line around it. They are just afraid parts of it could kick up again because there are still tons of hot fuels inside the perimeter. They continue to take extra care because this is the largest wildfire in Calif. history and we are on the leading edge.

A Friend’s Comment How’s it going David?

My Reply Exhausted from raking and moving sprinklers. Sigh.

Facebook Post July 30, 2021, 3:49 pm

Yesterday evening’s dry lightning caused 1,800 acres of new spot fires around Indian Valley overnight and this morning. Hottest part of entire Dixie Fire is bordering Indian Valley on Mt. Hough and parts of Arlington Road. Flames along road, but they have saved the tree canopy. Fire is moving mainly on the ground from the ridge top down.

A Friend’s Comment I heard just now of a new fire by Greenville.

My Reply Yes, I heard that too. Besides dry lightning yesterday evening, we have high NE winds now, blowing the opposite way of the fire, forcing it back into it’s own footprint. Crazy weather, most of it probably caused by the fire itself. (I will need to verify to be sure, but I believe that new fire was near Round Valley Lake. This was also the day the Evans Fire started on the flank of Mt. Evans above North Arm. When the Evans Fire combined with the Dixie Fire about a week later, it became a fire tornado that destroyed more than a handful of homes on Diamond Mountain Road and North Arm Road. This same day a number of other devastating fires started around Northern California. Meanwhile, there were areas of slight rain over the Dixie Fire and winds calmed. It rained for 15 minutes here at Rough Rock.)

Facebook Post August 2, 2021 8:56 am

It’s still a bit smokey in the afternoon, but this morning we have blue skies over the fire.

A Friend’s Comment Do you have to evacuate?

My Reply We’ve been in and out of Mandatory Evacuation status twice so far. Skies are getting bluer all the time, but the main fire still has smoke plumes and hot spots. Greenville has been on Mandatory evacuation all along, but we went to a Warning day before yesterday. (We found out later that Greenville was also downgraded to an Evacuation Warning that day, only to go back to Mandatory late the next day when the wind took off again. Most of the town burned two days later in the afternoon of August 4. Many people ironically had brought belongings back when they returned after the first Mandatory Evac was lifted, only to have to leave quickly without them on the second Mandatory notice.)

Facebook Post August 5, 2021, 12:39 pm

The fire kicked up a great deal yesterday with 40 MPH SW winds. Reports are Greenville is nearly all burned. Crescent Mills is under immediate threat and Taylorsville is back on Mandatory Evacuation. I am in Quincy for prescriptions, groceries and internet. Headed back home with my neighbor now.

A Friend’s Comment We came back and left again. Smoke was horrific.

My Reply It is. Really, really bad. Worst I’ve ever seen. Tuesday and Wednesday were the worst yet on this fire. A Friend’s Comment I heard about Greenville on the news at noon and crossed fingers and toes then started praying for you and your neighbors. My Reply Thanks and blessings. Friend’s Reply It just brought tears to my eyes to see your response in real time. How are you and where are you, did your home fare well?

My Reply All is well so far. Tensions are rising again locally as the fire backs toward Taylorsville.

A Friend’s Comment David…be safe! I’m monitoring on the aerial the Olsen Barn! The firefighters put a line around it too. Sigh. We don’t need anymore loss this fire season!

My Reply Great news. Our group leader may have more info too. I hear he is doing a lot on North Valley Road near Greenville to help neighbors.

Looking South Across Greenville from Main Street After Dixie Fire, Indian Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to View Large)

A Friend’s Comment Be safe David there is no way this monster can be fought with a garden hose…Greenville is leveled.

My Reply Totally agree. The fight is in the preparation. That said, I’m not going to stand up against a firestorm. Whether I run or fight will all depend on the shape the fire is in if it approaches. I have already heard enough stories from friends and firefighters who tried to save homes. Our local TFD guys said they’ve already seen sights way worse than anything else in 40 and 50 year careers on fires.

Friend’s Reply And the wind can come up big at any moment. Best just to leave. My Reply Depends on your background and how much is at stake. A Friend’s Comment This gets harder to believe all the time. Or am I dreaming? Well David, you´re more important than a building, so keep your distance.

My Reply As you probably know, it aint just the building. There’s a little matter of world-renowned historically significant original film, which of course is just a “thing” too, in the big scheme.

A Friend’s Comment Heard about Greenville – how close are you to it? My Reply Greenville was on the other side of Indian Valley, 12 miles away. I went to Kindergarten and 7-9th grades there and have many deep ties and close friends. The fire is closer than that now. Friend’s Reply Is situation close to you any better? keep hearing Dixie still only around 30% contained but not sure which direction it is spreading.

My Reply It seems to keep spreading in all directions, more or less, backing against the wind, as well as going with the changing wind, which has been from the SW most of the time, but also from SE, NE, NW and North for a few days recently. The weather reports are all over the map, plus the fire is making its own weather as well. Yesterday evening there was a very strange hot NW wind passing through my property, clearly straight off the fire.

Facebook Post August 13, 2021, 12:36 pm

Finally made it back to civilization in Quincy. Been without power, phones, internet and even without a vehicle for two days, but I am fast on a bicycle, haha, not so haha. Just got my Minivan back. The tragedy just gets worse. More homes and land of friends, and friends of friends, burning. More heartbreak. Surreal. There are a few bright spots of people whose homes miraculously were spared too. Heard the town of Westwood in Northern California was severely threatened last night, but due to great fire defense, still stands. The wind has been more or less calm with a few heavy gusts in Indian Valley the last two days. The fire is backing down toward Taylorsville, burning slower in the Moonlight Fire footprint. Heard some of the past burns often have brush 10-15 feet tall, which makes them faster, but not as intense as forest. Taylorsville, Genesee, Crescent Mills all now on Warning, downgraded from Mandatory Evacuation.

A Friend’s Comment Thank you for the update!

My Reply Thank you for feeding me text updates when I had only a few other sources. Luckily we have a strong community in Genesee too. You rock. Always helping people.

Friend’s Reply I only wish I could do more.

My Reply No doubt. Everything is so spread out and disconnected. Amazing how the fire crews avoid chaos and still are as effective as expected in the face of 100-200 foot flames.

A Friend’s Comment That has to be so terribly stressful seeing that which you know and loved burn. Sorry for all of your friends too. Glad you are safe. We have been wondering how you are and we have been watching the fire. Stay safe David.

My Reply Thank you so much. Appreciate your support. It is very strange when things that have been the same for 100 or more years suddenly disappear.

A Friend’s Comment Thanks for the update!

My Reply Your aunt and uncle have been key to my staying informed and getting back and forth to Quincy and back a few important times lately. They have been keeping their neighbor’s gardens and pets in Genesee Woods watered too. They are more and more like your grandma every day looking after everyone.

A Friend’s Comment Glad to see your update. Been wondering how you were doing. Continued good luck to you!

My Reply Thanks. The situation is getting tense again as the fire backs toward T’ville. Aaaarrrrggg.

Friend’s Reply I have checked maps several times – and thinking of your area always brings back fond memories of a long ago visit there to see your dad – 1986 I think! Hoping the best for you.

My Reply Mom and Dad were great hosts and gave quite a tour of the studio and gardens and Mom made great meals. Great you’ve seen the place. Hope you can come visit again when this all settles down if and when I am still here.

Friend’s Reply Would love to do that and trust you will still be there!

Burned Slope Below devastated Town of Indian Falls After Dixie Fire, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2021 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to View Large)

Another Friend’s Comment I’m glAd you are ok!

My Reply Thank you. For the time-being. Dark days for many others. Staying strong though. Taylorsville is a town full of survivalist preppers, lol, to say the least.

Another Friend’s Comment Yeah. It’s awful.

My Reply You know better than I do. You lost a lot more in that other infamous homewrecking fire.

Another Friend’s Comment That was then, this is now. All of Genesee valley on mandatory evacuation alert with imminent threat. My sister in-law’s house in Greenville was burnt to a crisp last week, along with several other family and friend’s houses. Hope you, David Leland Hyde , and everyone around there is ok.

A Friend’s Reply So sorry for your sister & neighbors.

My Reply Very sorry to hear this sad news. My heart goes out to your sister-in-law. I too have had many good friends lose everything, or almost everything. Terrible.

Facebook Post September 14, 2021, 8:46 am

Events of the last month sure prove the adage not to believe everything you see on the news or in social media. Amazing how a few added phrases taken out of context can spin the meaning, severity and intent of a situation… and there are generally a large number of people lurking around to make snap judgements about an event they know nothing about too.

This last post refers to a legal situation that arose at my home during the fire. I cannot comment here or discuss the event due to possible future action. However, I can say that the matter has been fully resolved for now, unless I pursue the privacy and civil rights issues. I will follow-up in future blog posts about various Bill of Rights, evacuation and disaster laws, forest management, fire management, climate and California wildfires, personal Dixie Fire stories and other controversies that came to a head during the Dixie Fire.

Friend’s Recent Twitter Comment An absolutely emotional roller coaster. Hoping it gets better going forward.

My Reply It was a wild time. I think I have trauma. However, I am very fortunate and grateful it turned out as well as it did. Very fortunate indeed. So many others lost so much more.

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

May 22nd, 2014

Art, Earth and Ethics, Part One

National Forests, Spotted Owls, Environmentalism, The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth? – Philip Hyde
Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and deep blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. New Addition to David Leland Hyde’s Sierra Portfolio. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and azure blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

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

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and my mother Ardis bought 18 acres in 1956 for a few thousands dollars in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. Plumas National Forest borders this land where I grew up, on two sides. Plumas National Forest also happens to be the top lumber producing national forest in the Lower 48 United States.

While my father was an artist and my mother a schoolteacher, my childhood friends were sons and daughters of loggers in Plumas National Forest and farmers in nearby Indian Valley. I remember conversations on both sides of the environmental equation. A good example of the nature of these discussions occurred recently. It was more of a one-sided rant than a dialog. A retired logger, who I consider a friend, and one of his friends, a claim gold miner, were raving about “those damn enviro’s.” Their comments were vaguely directed toward me, though also more general, offered in protest of all the injustices in the world and their own lives.

“I can’t believe the Feather River Land Trust won’t let us hunt ducks on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley any more. We’ve been hunting ducks there for 50 years. Rich city people come up here and they don’t know anything about our way of life.” They were on a roll, fueled by beer and who knows what else. I did not intervene at first.

“There are no jobs left because of the enviro’s,” One of them said. “Yeah, and the damn Spotted Owl,” the other said. “Just because of one tiny bird, whole forests are closed to logging. What’s more important: one stupid little bird, or the economy? I’d like to take every one of those damn Spotted Owls and strangle them. People are the endangered species.”

I started to respond, but the old logger interrupted me, “We know what you’re going to say. You’re in cahoots with the wealthy Bay Area crowd. Don’t talk any of that rubbish in this house. I’ll throw you out.”

I rode my bike home and pondered how the above conversation has not changed for 50 or even hundreds of years either. What these hard working old guys fail to understand is that the Spotted Owl is only a symptom, just the tip of a very large iceberg. The ecosystems are breaking down and these few species that are dying are like advance warnings. Depending on your perspective, a few bees are not so important. “We can just get beehives to pollinate the crops,” another local said. Neither is it vital whether the local frogs can still reproduce, or whether any other single species, or single population of a species lives or dies. However, when you stop and think about how many human fertility clinics there were 30 years ago and how many there are now in every town, when you start to connect the dots, you begin to get the bigger picture.

The Earth is a web of all life. Everything is connected to everything else. You destroy one part of the web of life and you eventually destroy yourself. People reading this blog perhaps will say this is a “no-brainer,” that I’m not pointing out anything new here. True, but why are we as a collective not getting it? Not doing enough to change our perspective and our ways? Greed? Corruption? Selfishness? Lack of vision? Denial? Laziness? Pessimism? Resignation? What is your excuse for still driving a traditional car? …For burning fossil fuel? …For using plastic products? …For not recycling? Even hybrid and electric automobiles have a tremendous impact on the environment just through their manufacture and the mining extraction of the materials that go into them.

Is it really the environment that we need to save, or ourselves? When we act in ways that have less impact, carpool, ride a bike, is it truly on behalf of the environment? Is that the primary concern? Or is environmentalism really self-preservation? My father used to say that we do not need to worry about the Earth. It will be here long after we are gone. It is our own survival for which we need to be concerned. Therefore, are environmentalists in reality interested in protecting the environment at the expense of people, or precisely because it is our own future that is in jeopardy.

This paradox still escapes the majority of people in our culture. What do we do about it? I was lucky to grow up with both an environmental ethic and an art aesthetic. Care for the planet and beauty as a telltale of balanced health are ingrained in my psyche. Unfortunately, most people do not grow up as fortunately. To put in perspective how blindly oblivious and unaware some can be, take for instance one extreme case: this video of former Boy Scout leaders destroying an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

When I first saw this video of young men responsible for leading others into nature having no respect for nature, I was dismayed, not only about those committing the crime and their kind, but also about whether there is any hope for our civilization. What we fail to realize is that we are all taking actions much like these ignorant young men. Not only are there just enough clueless people like them running around that it is easy to fall into thinking we are doomed, but we are all clueless to a much greater degree than we understand. In the realm of photography, even many nature and landscape photographers seem to have no respect for nature or other photographers, as landscape photographer Sarah Marino reported in her photoblog post, in which she suggested a field etiquette for landscape photographers.

Regardless of misguided deeds and a destructive approach to nature by our whole civilization, I believe there is still hope. I am writing this new series of blog posts precisely because I believe there is something we may not yet know, something we have not yet discovered, some new information or new action that will save us. This does not mean we can sit back, relax, watch TV, play video games, surf Facebook and not worry. It means that we need to put all of our synergistic efforts and pooled resources into finding a solution. But are we likely to do that? That is the question.

A New Yorker article, Scientific American and Grist Magazine report that even many leading scientists believe it is already too late to do anything about Climate Change. Wow, that went fast. Many people still doubt and wonder whether it is reality or myth, truth or fiction. Those of us who have been reading the science know that it is based on much more than mere computer modeling. We know that the science of Global Warming is based on mountains of hard evidence and real measurements that are hard to misread.

The abuse of nature has gone on for thousands of years. It is even sanctioned in the Bible. Genesis says our role is to conquer and have dominion over the Earth. Fortunately, today large numbers of Christians are not taking the Bible literally. More moderate Christians are in favor of applying the passages in the good book that tout taking care of Earth.

In the recent winner of the Colorado Book Award, Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, author Stephen Grace covers the devastating state of water and drought in the Western US today. Water laws, originally developed in the much wetter East, protect the use of water channeled away from rivers and streams at the expense of in-stream ecological, aesthetic and recreational values.

As economies across the West surged, streams were dammed, ditched, and diverted until their beds were nearly bare. Many rivers became toxic trickles because they didn’t carry enough volume to dilute poisons and flush themselves clean. And each diversion for an offstream use, whether to grow crops, make steel or send drinking water to city taps, reduced the amount of instream flow available for supporting fish and wildlife populations, nourishing riparian vegetation, and promoting recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, and bird watching… To some, especially those profiting from raising beef on irrigated pasture—these uses seemed ridiculous at best, a threat to their way of life at worst.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River helped supply the power to win World War II. After the War Hoover Dam was one of the underpinnings of the US rise to world power. Damming and diverting rivers has become as American as apple pie and as loved as baseball in the political arena, but the effects on watersheds, the durability of our limited fresh water supply and ultimately the health of the arteries of life on Earth is at stake.

On a larger scale, we are treating nature with the same abusive disdain across the globe. Are we lacking ethics or taste? Is it simply in our nature to be a parasite on the face of the Earth? Can we change? These and other questions, answers and ways out of the trap we have set for ourselves will be the subject of this new blog series.

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2.”)

Please comment, email or write me through the Contact Form above what environmental issues, ecological concerns and related psychology and philosophy you would like to read more about.