As the InsideClimate News Finding Middle Ground series nears an end, I had a chance to speak with the lovely Heather Goldstone of WCAI’s Living Lab about some of the experiences I’ve had as I traveled across the country.
Anyone who takes fly-fishing seriously behaves like a scientist. These anglers are biologists, knowledgeable in what’s eating what, when and how. They are hydrologists, studying riffles and stream flow. They are naturalists, observing clouds and sunlight and the circulation of air as their rods flick back and forth across the big sky. They are, in a sense, climate scientists. And some, but not all, are deeply concerned about the effects of a warming climate on the cold-water species that inhabit blue-ribbon trout streams.
But to the extent that they act as climate scientists, partisan politics plays a role in many anglers’ understanding of climate change. Here in Montana, with pristine rivers that are home to some of the best fly-fishing in the country, a majority of votes went for President Trump—and climate change is considered by many of them to be a natural phenomenon beyond human control. Nonetheless, climate change is having a profound influence on fly-fishing, from the timing of insect hatches to the long-term survival of the fish that give this sport its meaning….
And I had a great conversation with Nicky Oullet of Montana Public Radio about the story, and you can listen to it here.
Here’s the latest in Finding Middle Ground series, from Sweetwater, Texas:
All along the straight-shot roads of Nolan County in West Texas, wind turbines soar over endless acres of farms, the landscape either heavy with cotton ready to harvest or flushed green with the start of winter wheat. The turbines rise from expanses of ranches, where black Angus beef cattle gaze placidly at the horizon. Here and there are abandoned farmhouses dating to the 1880s, when this land was first settled and water windmills were first erected. Occasionally a few pump jacks bob their metallic heads, vestiges of a once-booming oil industry still satiating an endless thirst.
Every industry creates an ecosystem around it. If the wind turbines that sprouted in West Texas were huge steel trees, spinning sleek carbon-fiber blades 100 feet in length, then the wind farms—including Roscoe Wind Project and Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, some of the largest in the world—were their forest. Spread out across the expansive vista, invisible air currents feed the structures, their imperceptible roots extending out to the community that contains them.
Pogo pressed her paws into the ground impatiently, the sound of her yelps joining with those of the three other Alaskan husky mixes that Mel Omernick and her husband, Keith, were hooking up to their tug lines. It was the first weekend of November in Pearson, Wisconsin, and mushers had come from all over the region, and as far away as New Hampshire and Quebec, to race their dogs. They had parked their vehicles across the field at the Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Boy Scout Reservation—the young women in a Prius, the Trump supporter in a huge trailer emblazoned with “To the victor the spoils.” All year, the mushers had fed and watered and trained and cleaned up after their teams, awaiting the moment when they could let them loose across the starting line. Now the big weekend had finally arrived, though it had gotten off to a rocky start. Once again, the weather was to blame.
Be sure to check out the great accompanying video done by Anna Belle Peevey:
Second in a series of stories for InsideClimate News. An evangelical mountain town in West Virginia lost eight people to flooding from an extreme rain storm last year. Many residents see the Biblical prophecy of the apocalypse, and welcome it, while some are considering climate change in a new light.
Jake Dowdy is a police officer in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where he lived a block from Howard Creek, a stream so inconsequential you could usually hop-skip across parts of it without wetting your toes.
It was the morning of June 23, 2016, and a heavy rain was falling as Jake went to the gym for a workout. He wasn’t thinking much about the rain, other than that it’d be good for the garden. When he got home around noon, he had lunch and kicked up his feet in the living room, chilling out for a while before his 4 pm shift. He drifted off to sleep on the couch and awoke when his wife texted, confusing him for a moment; she was concerned about reports of flooding.
His disorientation turned to panic when he set his feet on the carpet and felt it squish soggily beneath his soles. He had just enough time to grab the cat and wade through thigh-high rushing water to his truck.
First in a series of stories for InsideClimate News.
MUSELLA, Georgia — Three generations of Robert Lee Dickeys share the two chairs in the cozy office of Dickey Farms, the younger always deferring to the elder. For 120 years, the Dickeys have been producing peaches so juicy they demand to be eaten over the kitchen sink.
Robert Lee “Mr. Bob” Dickey II, 89, is slightly stooped but moves quickly, dropping in just for a morning read of the Wall Street Journal. His son Robert Dickey III, 63, and his grandson, who goes by Lee, age 33, stick around all day, fielding calls and customers, checking the orchards. The next-generation Dickey is having her morning nap and will appear later in a tiny flowered dress, cradled in the arms of her mother, Lee’s wife, Stacy.
Just outside the office is the retail shop, where I watch customers drift into an open-air porch with white rocking chairs and a breeze, to consider peaches. Or, rather, the lack of peaches.
It’s mid-July, what should be peak season, but…
Twice a week, someone spectacular walks through the door of the Knight Science Journalism office door. As part of the fellowship, we have these seminars twice a week, and Director Deborah Blum has set up a stellar lineup of scientists, authors, journalists, and scholars to come speak with us about their work. It is, as they say, an honor and a privilege.
Renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky was scheduled to come earlier in the semester and then had to cancel due to a cold. Perhaps it was a blessing. The rescheduled day was November 17th, the week following the election that would upset American politics and set the stage for Donald Trump to be our next president.
We had new questions for our visitor. The fellows pooled our inquiries, and with Lauren Whaley and Iván Carillo overseeing audio-video, I sat down in a chair opposite Professor Chomsky to ask him at least a few of our collective questions.
At the Woods Hole portion of the MBL Logan Science Journalism fellowship, we worked with researcher Linda Deegan. Fishscape, one of her projects, is underway here at Toolik. She’s not here now, but I went out today with her research team as they collect data along the Kuparuk River, studying the impact of climate change on the Arctic grayling, a freshwater fish in the salmon family. The commute, via a Roberston-44 helicopter, was pretty thrilling. And, is it just me, or did the face of Jesus appear in the tundra around :30??
The ride was over much too quickly, and [Read more…]
Last year I went to NYC six months after Hurricane Sandy had struck to look at recovery (and retreat) efforts and to explore the issue of coastal infrastructure in a time of changing climate. Here’s an excerpt from the start of the piece, published in the March/April issue of Orion magazine:
ONCE UPON A TIME, about 2 million years ago, the Pleistocene era locked up the world’s water in glaciers miles thick. Then, it warmed. It was about ten thousand years ago when the water of the melting glaciers was released to reshape the world into the coastlines we now associate with modern-day maps.
By all indications, though, the shape of those coastlines is about to change.
The archipelago of New York City’s five boroughs has almost six hundred miles of littoral zone between solid ground and watery sea, a place of straits and river mouths, bays and beachy backshores. It’s also a place whose contours have been radically transformed by its citizens. A large percentage of the city’s edges were created artificially, filled in and built upon with the false confidence that land taken from the sea is permanently allocated for terrestrial use. But on October 29, 2012, the record-breaking storm surge that swept over New York City flooded fifty-one square miles of that falsely allocated land—and like a finger from a watery grave, the high-water mark traced the coastline that once was and may soon be again. The mayor’s office says that, by the 2050s, 800,000 New Yorkers will live in hundred-year flood plains, double the current number. [Read more…]
In graduate school I studied under religion writer Jeff Sharlet. It was through him that I learned how every story is a story of faith. The debate around climate change—is it happening, how bad is it, if it is happening what’s causing it, what should we do about it?—really comes down to a question of belief.
This summer, Andrew Hoffman had a piece in the Christian Science Monitor that addressed this fundamental notion of worldviews and cultural beliefs underlying the divide between climate skeptics and believers. He wrote, “For skeptics, climate change is inextricably tied to a belief that climate science and policy are a covert way for liberal environmentalists and the government to diminish citizens’ personal freedom.” For the skeptics, the science is merely a guise for a liberal anti-capitalist agenda.
But does the public agree?