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Vancouver will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy 13 April 2015, 23.28 Transportation
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Effervescent Lunacy in Las Vegas PDF Print E-mail

When it comes to books my mantra is, “Don’t leave home without it.” I rarely go anywhere without one. However, grabbing this book before I left home in southern Utah had a hint of fate attached to it since I was already into three other books and would normally have grabbed one of them rather than cracking a new one open. But as I was rushing out the door, the little book caught my eye and as an after-thought, I swiped it off my bookshelf as I dashed by.

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A cold breeze blew through the subdued winter version of Las Vegas I had arrived in. Because the muted view didn’t fit the glitz and glam version of Vegas I was accustomed to, it felt like an entirely different place. This being my first club soccer tournament, I wasn’t prepared for an all day stint at the park. With hours between games, I hunkered down for a long, cold day ahead of me. Shivering against the chilly wind, I prepared for a day of parental endurance. At least I had a book.

Wondering how the kids could run around in t-shirts and shorts, I pulled my beanie down as far as I could get it, thankful for the added layer of warmth my hair provided. I shrunk into my high tech jacket and braced myself against the growing cold, regretting my decision to bypass an extra layer when I left my hoodie at home.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of parents, players, and balls, and with just the tips of my fingers sticking out of my sleeves, I opened the worn and fragile looking book. It had the same vintage look that the West has in my mind, and so touched by nostalgia, it made me feel the same way the prospect of a road trip does.

I ran my hands over the yellowed, but still crisp and clean pages, marveling at how anyone could read the book without leaving a hint of use on it. I imagined that maybe it had sat neglected on a shelf for years before someone finally dropped it off at a thrift store. Hard for me to imagine as everything about this book said, “Read me.”

Until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of Gretel Ehrlich. Standing in a friend’s house in Carmel, California, perusing the bookshelf, was the first time I laid eyes on her name.

Most of the books on my friend’s shelves were art books, which made sense as both he and his girlfriend are artists. But a book with a stormy landscape on the front caught my eye. It stood out like a black sheep in those spines of ocean and sand and pastels. I read the back cover and quickly made a note of the title. I bought my own copy from a used bookstore on eBay a few days later. Not being one who needs an excuse to buy a book, it was still a rather blind and spontaneous buy for me but this book spoke to me.

Effervescent Lunacy 1

As I sat under the cotton stretched clouds pulled thread bare across the cold desert sky, I looked beyond the games enviously at the Red Rocks and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Even from where I sat the view was stunning. I sighed and turning away from the view, opened the cover. It took but a few moments to see that this book had chosen me. Reading, The Solace of Open Spaces, was like drinking a cold glass of water after being parched and dehydrated.

The hours rolled by, my time with the book broken up by games but in-between I would escape back into the book where I had left off. As I underlined passage after passage I thought, I could highlight her whole book. Her care with words, the imagery, and the picture-perfect descriptions nourished my mind like a good meal does my body. I consumed her book like a starving animal.  

Who is this woman, I mused, and why have I never heard of her before?

Reading Erlich was like reading a serious and thoughtful version of Edward Abbey. As I wondered about this woman from Santa Barbara who moved to the harsh and rugged landscape of Wyoming to work as a ranch hand, a theme kept popping up like a warning I should pay attention to. The theme? That life is not safe, nor was it meant to be, and furthermore, that it is meant to be lived out there, not inside an incubated building.

This time I paid attention rather that brushing it off as I had done several times already in the past few weeks. Thoughts that flickered in my mind were one thing, but an entire book was another. Like endless ocean waves rolling onto the beach, each page kept coming, repeating, and washing out the wrinkles in my mind, as if to emphasize that I had better decide if I was going to give in to safety or batten down the hatches and ride this one out.

I am not a big risk taker. I usually weigh costs and benefits and base my decisions on them, but I have lived long enough to know that you can miss your own life that way. I have looked back at my younger years and wondered why I didn’t live a little more—why I didn’t laugh more, try new things, let loose and act goofy, or attempt daring feats. What was I so afraid of? If Erlich could leave the beaches of Santa Barbara and head to a dusty and dry Wyoming, certainly I could face a daring future as well.

Prior to reading Erlich’s book my mind had been unmercifully focused on not wasting the life I have left. Looking ahead at the years left before me with a little dread, I realized I was still playing it safe. I was straddling the fence so to speak, sitting here while wishing I was out there. But reading Open Spaces made it clear that I have a deep longing for a wild, exhilarating, breathtaking future where I don’t look back again 20 years from now and wonder what I had been afraid of.

I want to risk and gain, or risk and lose, but know at the end that I have truly lived either way. I want to know that my life amounted to more than striving for “safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness,” as Aldo Leopold so frighteningly articulated in, “Thinking like a Mountain.”

That “out there” is a wildly alluring alternative to my “in here.” Once experienced it leaves a relentless anticipation that only abates once tasted again. To use Ehrlich’s words, the reason is that, “emerging from isolation can be disorienting, as everything looks bright, new, and vivid.” Like an alcoholic to the bottle, it is that which draws me back and leaves me agitated in the spaces in between. Everything is more vivid and bright, even myself.

To steal a thought expressed by Ueli Steck in Reel Rock 8 that mountains are honest; nature is simple. There are neither rewards nor punishments, as Gretel said, only consequences. Live simply right? This I can handle. This I can accept. No matter what, the result is natural and understandable, even if tragedy is the final result. It’s clean; perhaps unsettling at times, but never dull or boring.

But the most intriguing aspect is that this unsettling state of being does not go away once you taste it. Much like having sex; once you try it, the desire to do it again just grows. Only after you have scratched that itch and are left with an aching longing to return do you realize that your first experience into the wild was a birth from your life for which you will never return the same. You exit a new person. Like water trickling through your fingers, the desire to capture it, to feel it for a brief moment even while it slips through, is intoxicating, rejuvenating, and rewarding.

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As I sat in the purple haze of a sinking sun on the cold ground in Las Vegas, hovering between two landscapes, one man-made, the other natural, a bright fuse ignited in my mind. I let the book slide onto the ground between my legs and breathed warm air onto my frozen fingers, eyes glazing over as thoughts and images danced in my head.

Like a landscape free of wolves, which becomes tamer, less wild, and incomplete without them, people without wilderness and wild places lose their vigor, are less inspiring, and become mere shadows of themselves. We have lost sight of something. The thought was so simple and so alluring that I got lost in it for a delicious moment, a prolonged moment, possibly an eternity in that moment. When I snapped out of it my son was shaking my shoulder. I looked around at the trash-strewn and empty fields and wondered where the time had gone.

I closed the little book and stood up and stretched my cold, stiff limbs. I looked out at the city and watched the lights glow increasingly brighter against the ever darkening desert, and smirked at our attempt to shield ourselves even from the onslaught of night. Then I walked with my son out of the deserted park.

Effervescent Lunacy 4

I thought of how wild and crazy Las Vegas is and I saw it differently—again. Our cities are just imitations. They are a representation of what evolution has ingrained in us, that fear is as necessary for survival as safety. We are trying to create our own version of wilderness, and though we love our cities, they are not the same as the captivating and healing landscapes that surround them. They are a mirage of our hopes and dreams.

Our man-made landscapes scream silent screams. They scream the aching manifestation of a desire from people who are desperate to feel alive, free and unrestrained—yet somehow not realizing that it is right at our fingertips and though elusive to capture, there to be experienced if we dare.

There was a time in the not too distant past that wilderness could be not avoided; it was not separate, not out there. It was everywhere—at the doorstep, just outside the flimsy canvas of a wagon. It used to make us who we are. We grew stronger, more resilient, wiser.

Though we are largely done settling an unknown West, we can still explore it—and thank god there are still places to explore. It’s in our blood. Like an American tradition, getting out there provides a connecting link between past and present, and hopefully, future. Entering the vast deserts and mountains of the West connects me to time and space. It rouses a simple version of me that is free from all contrivances, defenses, and comforts I gather around me in my civilized life. Getting out of my comfort zone allows me to see who I really am, the me without all the security blankets, the me I must rely on when there is nothing and no one else to get me through. When I long to return to such places, it is really a longing to become again what I once was out there, however briefly. 

Watching the weather-beaten land fade into darkness and give way to our electric filled night, calm overcame me. Knowing that the rugged and vintage West still exists out there as much as it does in a book or in my mind, I was released for the moment from the disquietude that had overtaken me, and I felt a sort of effervescent lunacy bubble up inside as I walked away from a soccer tournament in the heart of Las Vegas.

“Nature expresses itself as a bright fuse, and its open space has a spiritual equivalent that can heal what is divided and burdensome in us.” –Gretel Erhlich

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Greta Hyland is a writer, runner, lover of nature and beer drinker from the American Southwest.

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#VidaPatagonia – Blockbuster, a new route on the west face of Mojon Rojo PDF Print E-mail

By Luka Krajnc

MojonRojo1r, Foto;Tadej Kritelj

Coming to Patagonia with big goals can be an unpredictable thing. 

Tadej Krišelj and I found ourselves at the wrong place below the triangular snowfield on Cerro Torres’ east face surrounded by snowflakes, spindrift and the first signs of avalanches. Backing off was more of a lesson than a failure and a few hours later we were squeezing under a dripping boulder bivy surprised by the snowy outcome of the relatively good forecast. The Patagonian weather had lived up to its reputation. 

The next morning the sun welcomed us with its warmth which was perfect for drying the soaked equipment and regaining some climbing motivation. It became obvious that the good weather window hadn’t disappeared, it just came later than we expected. Walking back to Chaltén in such weather would have been a crime, so we took a rest day at Niponino and switched to backup plan mode.

Above photo: Tadej Krišelj

The pyramid-shaped west face of Mojon Rojo looks steep but unappealing at first sight because of its red-colored rock. However, you can't help but notice the obvious dihedral that runs through the center of the wall. I always wondered how such an obvious line was still unclimbed. This was the perfect time to find out and there were just enough unknown factors to make the whole thing a bit more interesting.

MojonRojo2r_Foto; Luka Krajnc
Photo: Luka Krajnc

The early start from Niponino was chilly but the steep moraine warmed us up. After a few hours of approach we stood under the wall, both silently thinking that it was steeper than we expected. The rock was not that bad by our standards and we were surprised at how “blocky” it was. I had never climbed a route with so many blocks stacked one on top of another. It was interesting that none of them actually moved. They were connected to the wall by some kind of a static formula that our brains didn’t completely understand.

MojonRojo3_Foto; Luka Krajnc
Photo: Luka Krajnc

The climbing itself proved quite serious which slowed us down a bit. The higher we got, the more obvious it became that following the dihedral to the end wouldn’t be a smart choice. Steep wide cracks with less-than-perfect rock didn’t seem like they would allow fast progress with the skills and gear that we had.

MojonRojo4r_Foto; Luka Krajnc
Photo: Luka Krajnc

Following our instinct we found a great passage that took us towards easier terrain and the amazing splitter headwall where we joined a route called El Zorro that Colin Haley and Sarah Hart climbed two years ago. We free climbed an aid section of their route which we shared for four pitches until we reached the top of the wall with the last rays of sun.

MojonRojo5r_Foto; Tadej Kritelj
Photo: Tadej Krišelj


We made a classic mistake by thinking that the descent would be just a formality. After down climbing some easy terrain our rope got stuck on the only rappel of the day. Using the “let’s pull it a bit harder and see what happens” tactic we released a block that managed to split the rope in half with a single hit. Feeling tired and dehydrated after a long day we didn’t seem to care too much. We knew we wouldn’t need it further down on the descent.

Finding the right gully to descend to Laguna Sucia in the dark was anything but, especially considering our state of mind, so we decided for an unplanned bivy. A few hours of shivering and checking the clock every five minutes followed. In the morning, we descended the gully that now seemed so easy and walked to Chaltén for an overdose of fresh bread topped with extensive amounts of dulce de leche.

MojonRojo7r_Foto;Luka Krajnc_S
Photo: Luka Krajnc

We decided to name our route Blockbuster due to the nature of the rock. It is 700 meters long of which 550 meters are new. The difficulties never exceeded 6c and we climbed the whole route free and onsight, using mostly traditional gear and without leaving anything behind. It will probably never become a classic, but it may just be a good choice for climbers looking for something different and a bit more “spicy.”

MojonRojo6r_line_Foto; Luka Krajnc
Photo: Luka Krajnc 

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Patagonia Europe ambassador Luka Krajnc lives in Celje, Slovenia where he is a member of the Celje mountaineering club. During the last few years, he’s been actively traveling around the world, searching for vertical challenges that inspire and motivate him, including new routes in Patagonia, Venezuela, Morocco and around Europe. When he needs a break from climbing, Luka enjoys windsurfing and running.\

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Visit the #VidaPatagonia trip page for a look back at all the great social media photos from the 2014-2015 climbing season in Patagonia.  

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Mile for Mile, Part 2 – The Run PDF Print E-mail
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By Jeff Browning

How do you tell the story of 106 miles in two days in a short and concise manner? It’s nearly impossible—similar to trying to restore an ecosystem and build a national park. So many little steps, so many little stories.

Our route would take us through the new Patagonia Park. Starting north in the town of Chile Chico on the edge of the nearly 400,000-acre Jeinimeni Reserve, dropping into Valle Chacabuco on day one. Day two would take us through Valle Chacabuco to the Park’s headquarters, up and over Cerro Tamanguito and into the southern beech forests of Tamango National Reserve to end in the small village of Cochrane on the western edge of Lago Cochrane.

Above: Mile for Mile: A Film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia. Video: Rios Libres and Patagonia 

We left the quiet, sleeping village of Chile Chico on the southern shores of Lago General Carrera at dawn on December 9 with a few of the local feral dogs loping along with us. The first 34 miles took us along the border of Argentina, nearly all uphill, into a driving headwind for seven hours on a washboard gravel road. We encountered rain, sleet and snow, wild horses and sheep. We took turns leading and fighting the infernal wind, Krissy and I both going through our own quiet ups and downs. Luke seemed to be the only one unfazed by the weather. They must cut them from a different mold in Idaho.

Our one and only rendezvous with our crew was on the shores of Lago Jeinimeni—seven hours into the first day. We gorged ourselves on whatever food was put in front of us, filled our packs with more food, checked and adjusted the gear, shouldered our loads and headed out. The next section took us into the heart of the Jeinimeni Reserve, which will one day form the northern part of the future Patagonia National Park. The next seven miles was a series of rocky glacier-fed braided stream valleys and a couple of low, wooded beech forest passes we had to quickly ascend and descend to gain the final headwaters of the Chacabuco River.

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Smiling through some spicy weather. Photo: James Q Martin

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Sugar, the ultrarunner’s 11th essential. Jeff Browning, Luke Nelson and Krissy Moehl load up before heading into the heart of the Jeinemeni Reserve, the self-supported middle passage of their 106-mile run. Photo: James Q Martin

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Tiptoeing through the first of many frigid water crossings in Valle Hermoso. Photo: James Q Martin

We were surrounded by gigantic glacier-covered peaks towering six-to-seven thousand feet above us—the ominous clouds just high enough to allow us to catch glimpses of the snow-covered summits in every direction. We barely averaged two miles per hour through this section. We had to crisscross so many ice-cold streams that we gave up trying to keep dry feet. The water was so cold that running was nearly impossible for 20-30 seconds afterward due to frozen ankles—we were confined to hiking on the rocky stream bed until the blood-flow returned, searching for the next rock cairn marker to lead the way.

This section was so spectacular that we couldn’t help yelling to each other “Look there!” or “Crazy!” or “I can’t believe this place!” Mountain running takes you to a lot of special, wild places, but this one was beyond words. I only hope to take my kids back there some day to see it. When we first crested the rocky pass that overlooked the Valle Hermoso and Lago Verde, we all stopped dead in our tracks to take in the dark red rock running straight into the turquoise lake, lost for words. At this point, Luke made a quick video for his kids telling them he would bring them there one day.

A video posted by Luke Nelson (@slukenelson) on Mar 18, 2015 at 9:02am PDT

Instagram clip from Valle Hermoso. Video: Patagonia via @slukenelson 

We made it up the valley and to the final grunt climb through the ancient beech forest to the pass and into the upper reaches of Valle Aviles and the Chacabuco River’s headwaters.

As we descended the upper beech forest groves, we came across a rare female woodpecker perched high in a beech above the narrow trail. We all stopped and just took in the sight as the evening light was fading—speaking in hushed whispers.

We were soon entering the land that will one day connect the two reserves—the former estancia turned public park that Conservacion Patagonica has worked so hard to restore over the past decade. Valle Chacabuco was a wonderful sight to behold after 14 hours on our feet. Day one had been 71 miles and we got to our base camp right at dusk at Casa Piedra—a campground sitting on a wide plain along the banks of the Chacabuco River. I took a cold river bath under a headlamp, ate, and crashed out for the night in my tent.

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Autumn shows its colors in Valle Chacabuco. Chile. Photo: Linde Waidhofer

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The energy-efficient lodge at Valle Chacabuco, which was designed and decorated in the style of historic Patagonian estancias, offers visitors meals, accommodations and a beautiful venue in which to rest from big days exploring the park. Patagonia Park, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

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Jeff at camp. Photo: James Q Martin 

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Running with the guanaco. Photo: James Q Martin

By 9 am the next morning we were moving again, up the gravel road through Valle Chacabuco amongst herds of passing guanaco, the male sentries squealing their warnings as we approached—young ones running and playing, nipping at each other. The second day had blue sky and sun, and as our tired legs loosened up we enjoyed views of many types of waterfowl throughout the valley’s restored wetlands. Seventeen miles of rolling gravel road running brought us through the familiar park headquarters at lunchtime. We took in some stew and bread at the Park’s restaurant before shouldering our packs and shuffling off to climb Cerro Tamanguito—nearly 4,000 feet above us.

We power-hiked up the steep flanks of Tamanguito on the Lagunas Altas Trail—a trail that overlooked our base camp at the West Wind Campground on which we had trained and explored multiple times over the past week. The calm day was hot on the northern facing sunny climb. We fought bees and biting flies and hoped for the signature Patagonian winds to return.

Climbing up, a large shadow suddenly covered us from above and we all looked up to find a group of five condors circling lazily above us, riding the slight wind currents. Could they sense our fatigue? Our slow pace made me think they might be scoping us. They’re huge silhouettes floating, rising, dropping—beautiful.

We made the bare, rocky summit of Tamanguito just after 2 pm to a bluebird clear day in Patagonia, a rare occurrence we were told by locals. We took in the stunning 360-degree view of every summit around—the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the towering snow-covered peaks of San Lorenzo to the south, San Valentin to the northwest, and dozens of other snow-covered peaks in every direction. We stood for a while soaking it all in before dropping off the south side of Tamanguito to run the final 12 miles down to Cochrane through the Tamango Reserve.

We took our time enjoying the rugged beech forest of the reserve, hopping over all the blown down trees left over from the spring storms, dipping our bottles in the trickling snow melt streams, and batting away mosquitos in the marshy wet spots of the forest. As we finally made the last technical trail descent to gain the dirt road that led us into Cochrane, I couldn’t help thinking about a giant plate of food and a good bottle of Chilean wine. However, as we hit the paved city streets of Cochrane and ran into the town square to end our two-day, 106 mile adventure, in the middle of the town square the low afternoon sun was shining through the metal statue of the highly endangered huemul deer—and something deeper moved to the forefront of my tired thoughts.

What I pondered is Conservacion Patagonica’s project to connect three independent ecosystems into one large park. Their gigantic effort of taking out 500 miles of fencing, restoring overgrazed native grasslands, the ongoing effort to build a trail system that will eventually connect all the way through this beautiful place—a truly monumental task. A vision that takes patience and sustained effort, a vision that takes volunteers and people and good old honest hard work—much like running 106 miles—one foot in front of the other until eventually—with patience and perseverance—you reach the journey’s end.

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GET INVOLVED

Donate to Conservacion Patagonica and help build 50 miles of trail. Patagonia will match your donation—mile for mile. The total estimated cost per mile is $1,600 and the matching program ends December 31, 2015.

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In addition to running in the mountains, Jeff Browning spends his time chasing his three children, dog, and four chickens around their organic garden in Bend, Oregon. You can read more ultrarunning stories from Jeff on his website, GoBroncoBilly.com, or follow him on Instagram (@gobroncobilly).

Check out part 1 of this series from Luke Nelson: Arrival at the New Patagonia Park.

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Earth  |  
 
The Climbing is the Easy Part These Days – A report on the FA of Slesse's Heart of Darkness, Colin Haley and Dylan Johnson, 8 March 2015 PDF Print E-mail

By Dylan Johnson

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Things have changed. That old "live simply" ethos Jenna and I lived by, roaming around the desert and mountains in our '83 Dodge Prospector van (with a sci-fi mural on the hood and velvet interior), feels a bit like a past life. Climbing these days is tightly packed between a life of airports, computers, conference calls and meetings—logging huge numbers of hours running my architecture practice. Time at home is spent cradling Olivia (our newborn) in the middle of the night or jogging alongside Emma (our two year old) as she rides her bike to school for the first time—or planning weeks in advance for a few hours out to dinner with Jenna on a cherished "date night." All that, and Jenna works harder than I do. 

This time of year however, like a high school kid checking their Snapchat feed, I obsessively glance at my NOAA weather app: point forecast saved for the 49th parallel, just east of Mount Baker. NOAA doesn't work in Canada, but this ridgeline at the southern edge of the North Cascade's Chilliwack range is close enough.

Above: Heart of Darkness on the north face of Mount Slesse, North Cascades, British Columbia. Photo: Jim Nelson 

Growing up in the mountains of the northwest, Slesse has always been a particularly special peak for me as a climber. In the indigenous Salish language, "Slesse" translates to "fang." We've nicknamed it the "Cerro Torre of the Cascades." Its Gothic structure and dark rock are impressive in summer, but in winter, when streaked with ice and snow flutings, Sleese is so visually appealing it becomes downright irresistible. I've had John Scurlock's iconic photo of the mountain on my living room wall for years. The image is a bit of a tease, as the unclimbed "Heart of Darkness"—a deep chasm on the north face—is in profile, but just out of view. The couloir tops out the main wall right at the base of the striking north silhouette of the upper tower. The line is remarkably aesthetic, an enticing blend of steep ice and mixed terrain capped by a classic alpine rock face that ends directly at a pointy summit. I'd visited the mountain twice before to attempt the line, once even getting half way up the couloir with Roger Strong, before being sent home (like all the other suitors) by difficult, insecure mixed climbing and relentless, overwhelming spindrift avalanches. 

Last week on Monday morning, I woke up early, rubbed my eyes and tapped the NOAA app. Oh god, cold and clear for week. It hasn't snowed for weeks—this is as good as it ever gets in the Cascades. I tell myself there's no way I can swing it. I'm booked solid with work all week, and we have Friday night flights booked for Seattle to introduce baby Olivia to the entire extended family. I get in the shower, hoping Emma doesn't wake up before I'm out. I can't shake the thought of how perfect the conditions must be on the Heart of Darkness. I try to focus and organize my thoughts for the day: kids, school, work, but my mind keeps drifting. I recall Colin just flew home to Seattle from Patagonia, we'll be in Seattle anyway with lots of family/childcare possibilities ... No, no, stop kidding yourself. You have to work Friday in California, you have Monday morning meetings in Eastern Washington. And, most importantly, how could you ever tell Jenna and the family you'll miss introducing baby Olivia to everyone? Ahhh!

I text Colin, just to see if he's even in the area and point out that the mountain conditions look pretty good. He writes back almost immediately (this is an exact quote): "Yo Braski! Yep, I'm back in da MF 206! ... HOD is probably in excrement condition." Translation: 206 is the Seattle area code (Colin likes to pretend he's a rapper sometimes), HOD is our abbreviation for "Heart of Darkness," and yes, he says "excrement" when he means "super-excellent."

Jenna is on business in Hawaii; I text her with my "big request." She writes back quickly as well, in total support. "I get it," she says, "I can watch the girls." She is so awesome. 

Now the real crux, I have to call Mom. She's planned this big party for introducing Olivia. I procrastinate for a day, avoiding the inevitable. I even think for a moment that it could be nice if the weather turned for the worse. If it did, I could avoid having to call her and just go to the family gathering like a normal son/dad. I check the NOAA app again for the afternoon update. The forecast improved even more and I pick up the phone. After reciting a carefully rehearsed explanation, I pause, waiting to hear the tone of Mom's response. To my amazement, her voice doesn't sound mad or even disappointed. Instead, I'm relieved to hear her familiar motherly tone of support and affection, "Dylan, I completely understand. In fact, I've been thinking lately how impressed I am with your ability to take care of yourself sometimes. I'm learning from you and trying to do some of this for myself these days. Absolutely, you should go for it!" Wow, Mom is awesome too.

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The Johnson Family bouldering above Santa Barbara. Photo: Briar Burnett-Johnson
 

I quickly pack two giant duffels, one full of ice tools, pitons, crampons and jackets, the other full of diapers, baby clothes and kiddo snacks. We rush up to Seattle. I sleep for a few hours in my sister's basement before heading for the Canadian border to meet Colin. We hike in and bivy under the storied Northeast Buttress. Near full moon, a favorite mountain in excrement condition, and a good friend—with my time in the mountains so limited these days, I find myself enjoying each minute out there much more than I used to. Even time spent slogging up the approaches and shivering at the bivies has a new-found element of pleasure. 

Our predawn alarm clock never went off and we woke up late. It was the longest night of sleep I'd had in months. Colin joked, "Well, I guess you just have to go alpine climbing to catch up on your sleep!" It wasn't so much a joke, but the ironic truth. 

We downed a quick breakfast and set off for the spectacular face. The climbing was as good as we'd hoped for all these years. The sketchy pitches I'd previously encountered had a friendly skim coat of alpine ice. Colin made quick work of a crux aid pitch to punch beyond the previous high point. Above the HOD couloir system, we enjoyed bare-handed-mono-point-cramponed rock climbing on the upper north rib in the chilly sunshine. Around nine hours after crossing the bergschrund we stood on the summit. 

After driving through the night, I was only two hours late to the Monday morning meetings. Fortunately I have great, understanding clients.

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Dylan enters the Heart of Darkness. The summit tower can be seen above. Photo: Colin Haley

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Colin nears the crux pitches of the couloir. Photo: Dylan Johnson

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Dylan following in the couloir. Photo: Colin Haley

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Colin finishing the crux aid traverse pitch. Photo: Dylan Johnson

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Dylan starting up the upper north rib. Across the valley are the American and Canadian border peaks, with Kulshan in the distance. Photo: Colin Haley

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Colin following high on the north rib. The base of the HOD couloir can be seen just behind his head. Photo: Dylan Johnson

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Dylan enjoys bare hands and crampons high on the upper north rib. Photo: Colin Haley

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Dylan on the Crossover Descent. The route can be seen directly above him. Photo: Colin Haley

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Dylan Johnson believes his life is defined by a balancing act between the world of big mountains, running an architecture practice and maintaining a family life. Big, remote alpine faces keep him motivated and through his climbing he’s learned that pushing himself in the mountains translates to dealing with stressful situations in everyday life. He chooses to climb because climbing simply makes life better.

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Earth  |  
 
The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling PDF Print E-mail

By Andy J. Danylchuk, PhD

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Recreational angling is an incredibly popular leisure activity in North America, spanning a wide demographic of our society and occurring almost every place fish can be found. Tools and techniques for recreational angling are also vast and selecting the right gear often consumes a lot of our leisure time, basements, and wallets. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ sport and, for the most part, I think we like it that way.

Given recreational angling’s popularity, breadth and depth, this also means that many different kinds of fish are caught in many different ways. That is part of why we do it. In some cases anglers catch to keep, but even they have to release fish that are the wrong species, aren’t of legal size, or when the limit is reached. There is also a growing movement focused on voluntary catch-and-release—a way to enjoy the sport but potentially reduce the impact on fish. In theory, catch-and-release is more sustainable and more conservation-minded. If you see it swim away, the fish is fine... right?

Above: April Vokey releases a Skeena River steelhead. Photo: Adrienne Comeau

This is where the ‘fundamentals of fish’ come in. A couple of good friends of mine (Dr. Steven Cooke and Dr. Cory Suski, who, like myself, are anglers-turned-scientists and focus on recreational fisheries) published a research paper nearly a decade ago that highlighted that, although stresses imposed on fish are species-specific, there are some fundamentals or common ground that can form the basis of best practices for catch-and-release.

Sure, there has been some ‘catch-and-release science’ performed on certain species such as bonefish, rainbow trout and largemouth bass, however, the physical and physiological tolerances as well as the environments these species reside in are quite different. Nuances in the best practices for the catch-and-release of bonefish, such as the presence of aquatic predators (sharks, barracuda), may not apply to rainbow trout in shallow, cold, mountain streams. Nevertheless, predation could be a problem for largemouth bass, not on adults but rather on fry as they float vulnerably around the nest while the father is being caught and released.

Until hard science is done on more of our favorite quarry, what are the broad fundamentals of fish that anglers need to keep in mind to act responsibly and with the fate of the fish in mind? Let’s break it down by the elements of the angling event, and focus on some things that are truly in the angler’s control.

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Images capture a brief moment of the handling event after a fish is landed or once it's released. For example, if a fish is completely submerged in an image, can we safely assume it was submerged for the entire handling event? As we move forward towards responsible angling, it will be important to encourage anglers and photographers to capture images of best practices. Photo: Dave McCoy

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Work to ensure the operculum (gill cover) is completely submerged and that the hand supporting the head is not impeding the water flow through the mouth and across the gills. Photo: Bryan Gregson  

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Any air exposure after an angling event should be avoided; it stops respiration and slows recovery for the fish after being exercised on the end of the line. Note how dry this fish looks, too. Also, avoid lipping a fish—it can put undo torsion and strain on the head and vertebrae. Photo: Bryan Gregson

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If in moving water, point the head of the fish into the current to maximize the flow of water through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum. Photo: Bryan Gregson  

Exercise

Ever wonder why a fish gives up and eventually is reeled in? Fish experience exercise-induced stress when on the end of a fishing line. We cannot and should not deny this. To fight the tension of the line, fish release sugar (glucose) into their blood to fuel muscle activity and fight when hooked up. All vertebrates in the animal world fuel exercise this way: when hunting for food, when competing for mates, when running away from a predator. Prolonged exercise and related muscle activity also results in the buildup of lactate in the blood. This has cascading effects on muscle function; the same thing happens when we run a race and get a cramp in our calf muscle or thigh. Playing fish for too long increases the response in blood glucose and lactate levels, and then it takes longer for the fish to recover physiologically following release. Across all species, match your tackle to the species and conditions, and try not to play the fish to exhaustion.

Hooks and Handling

The tip of a hook penetrating a fish’s mouth or other body part causes physical injury—it just does. A goal of ‘responsible angling’ is to find ways to minimize hooking damage. One simple way is to crimp the barbs; this not only reduces hooking damage since there is no longer a need to pull the barb in the opposite direction to entry, but it can reduce overall handling time. Barbless hooks can also be more easily removed by simply grabbing the hook with hemostats or pliers while the fish is still in the water. A quick turn of the wrist and the hook is free without even touching the fish. Also, if a fish is deeply hooked, several studies have shown that it is much better to cut the line and leave the hook in place rather than trying to dig the hook out. Go barbless and practice techniques where the fish is not even touched. If it is unavoidable, do all you can to reduce handling, including avoiding nets and lip-gripping devices. If you can’t get the hook out, cut the line.

Respiration and Air Exposure

Fish respire (breathe) by moving water in through the mouth, over the gills and out the gill flaps, otherwise known as the operculum. Some fish actively pump the water by a coordinated set of movements involving the mouth and operculum, while others are ‘ram ventilators’ swimming with their mouths open to get the oxygenated water to pass over the gills. Either way, visualize ‘in through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum.’ It is also important to know that water flowing the opposite way, like when moving a fish backwards, does not aid respiration.

Now think of what some anglers do once the fish is landed. Taking fish out of the water stops dissolved oxygen from getting into the blood via the gills. No, the gills are not adapted to capture oxygen from air. A small number of species can use their swim bladder to ‘breathe’ but it’s generally not their preferred method.

After being exercised on the end of a fishing line, it is additionally stressful to a fish to take it out of the water, which essentially stops respiration. We are forcing the fish to hold its breath after running a race. There are tricks for minimizing air exposure, like asking whoever is taking a photo to call the shots and get the angler to keep the fish in the water until the camera is ready. That being said, the goal for ‘responsible angling’ should be to eliminate air exposure altogether.

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An image of a fish completely submerged is ideal. Underwater cameras are becoming mainstream to make these shots easier. Photo: Dave McCoy 

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Work to submerge more of the opercula when taking shots of fish just out of the water. It is evident in this photo that water flow is from front to back. Photo: Bryan Gregson

Recovery and Release

Does it help to keep the fish in the water after it has been landed? Yes, and most importantly recall that the water has to move ‘in through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum’ to maximize respiration. So, the mouth and all of the operculum need to be submerged, and anglers need to be careful not to grasp the fish so that the mouth and operculum cannot move. Holding the fish with one hand under the body and one at the base of the tail works well for many species.

Fish that have experienced considerable physiological stress due to exercise and handling can lose coordinated movements of their fins and roll, nosedive and lose equilibrium. These fish should be recovered before release. If in a stream or river, hold the fish completely submerged while pointing the head into the current to promote respiration (do not move a fish back and forth—recall that water moving backwards over the gills does not help, but in fact, can actually harm the fish). Support the fish gently, do not cover the mouth and operculum, do not grip the fish too firmly and observe for coordinated fin movements. If in a lake or slack water, move the fish in a figure-eight pattern to promote respiration (again, only move the fish in a forward direction). If in a boat, put the motor in idle forward and hold the fish headfirst towards the bow. In some cases, live wells can be used to help fish recover, but be careful since these confine the fish, plus it will be important to maintain some water flow or aerate. Recovery bags have been tested for some species (Pacific salmon, bonefish) and are showing promise for allowing fish to recover before release. Overall, only move a fish in a forward direction when helping it recover, let the fish go when its fins are showing coordinated movements, it can keep itself upright and it is actively trying to swim away from you. If you are in an area where predators are circling (e.g., sharks, eagles), consider releasing the fish elsewhere, if you can.

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An excellent image that still shows the angler and the fish, but the fish is completely submerged. Photo: Dave McCoy

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Note that the fish is dripping, revealing that it has quickly been removed from the water for the shot. Ideally, however, air exposure should be avoided. Photo: Bryan Gregson

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Attempt to move the front hand behind the operculum to avoid any constriction of the mouth and operculum. Photo: Bryan Gregson

Although studies have shown that it can take hours for a fish to physiologically and physically recover from an angling event, matching the tackle to the species and conditions, not playing the fish to exhaustion, minimizing handling and eliminating air exposure will greatly reduce recovery times. This will give fish the best opportunity to get back to doing their thing, whether it will be contributing to the next generation, contributing to the ecosystem or to be caught another day.

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Dr. Andy Danylchuk is an Assistant Professor of Fish Conservation at University of Massachusetts Amherst, a Patagonia Fly Fishing Ambassador and a Research Fellow for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Much of Andy’s research focuses on evaluating the potential impacts of recreational angling on fish populations and working with stakeholder groups to develop best practices for the recreational angling community.

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This article first appeared in issue 50 of This is Fly Magazine. Through creative writing, photography, design, art and music, This is Fly Magazine defines the lifestyle and culture for the next generation of fly fishing. Subscriptions are free. Simply enter your email address to be notified when the next issue is released.

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Earth  |  
 
Worn Wear Spring 2015 Tour – Free clothing repairs and more in 15 cities across the country [Updated] PDF Print E-mail

One of the most responsible things we can do as a company is to make high-quality stuff that lasts for years and can be repaired, so you don’t have to buy more of it. The Worn Wear® program celebrates the stories we wear and keeps your gear in action longer to take some of the pressure off the planet.

This spring—beginning April 4th in San Francisco—our biodiesel repair truck will travel coast-to-coast doing free clothing repairs, teaching you how to fix your own gear and selling used Patagonia clothing. Bring us your tired, well-loved clothing for repair. If you don’t have any, we’ll supply it. Fix it and you can keep it. Join us for local food and drinks and celebrate the stories we wear.

Hit the jump for the full tour schedule.

Above: Better Than New is a short film that introduces Patagonia’s new biodiesel repair wagon and pays tribute to the customers and repair techs who have kept our gear in use for over 40 years. Patagonia’s Reno Repair Department is the largest garment repair facility in the U.S.—completing about 30,000 repairs per year. Video: Dan Malloy

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Worn Wear wagon and staff at EcoFarm Conference 2015 earlier this year. Photo: Erin Feinblatt 

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Designed and built by artist Jay Nelson, the Patagonia Worn Wear wagon runs on biodiesel while driving and solar power when the sewing machines are spinning. Photo: Erin Feinblatt

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Dan Malloy holds up a pair of board shorts in need of repair. Photo: Erin Feinblatt

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Ready for pick up. Photo: Erin Feinblatt

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Worn Wear Spring 2015 Tour

(updated 4/6/15)

Saturday 4/4
San Francisco, CA
Mollusk Surf Shop
4500 Irving St 94122
4 PM - 7 PM
Special Screening: The Fisherman’s Son 
8 PM
Tuesday 4/7
San Francisco, CA
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St 94103
8 - 2 PM
Yerdle After Party
501 York St 94110
5:30 - 9 PM
Friday 4/10
Bend, OR
Smith Rock Trailhead
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne 97760
9 AM - 5 PM
Saturday 4/11
Bend, OR
Smith Rock Trailhead
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne 97760
9 AM - 5 PM
Sunday 4/12
Portland, OR
Patagonia Portland
907 NW Irving St 97209
11 AM - 8 PM
Wednesday 4/15
Seattle, WA
Feathered Friends
119 Yale Avenue North 98109 
12 - 6 PM
Sunday 4/19
Moab, UT
Wabi Sabi
411 Locust Lane 84532
11 AM - 6 PM
Wednesday 4/22
Boulder, CO
University of Colorado Boulder
University Memorial Center
1669 Euclid Ave 80309
10 AM - 3 PM
Wednesday 4/22
Boulder, CO
Movement Boulder
2845 Valmont Rd 80301
5 PM - 8 PM
Thursday 4/23
Fort Collins, CO
New Belgium Brewery
500 Linden St 80524
12 - 8 PM
Special Screenings: Fisherman’s Son + Worn Wear Film
3:30, 4:30, 5:30 PM
Sunday 4/26
Chicago, IL
Patagonia Lincoln Park
1800 North Clybourn 60614
11 AM - 6 PM
Wednesday 4/29
Nashville, TN
Imogene + Willie
2601 12th Ave South 37204
10 AM - 5 PM
Wednesday 4/29
Nashville, TN
Climb Nashville - Pint Night
3600 Charlotte Ave 37209
7 PM - 10 PM
Friday 5/1
Asheville, NC
RiverLink Music Festival
144 Riverside Dr 28801 
5 PM - 10 PM
Sunday 5/3
Raleigh, NC
UNC-Chapel-Hill
Wilson Library (Lot)
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
11 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday 5/5
Raleigh, NC
Great Outdoor Provision Co.
2017 Cameron St 27605
11 - 7 PM
Thursday 5/7
Fayetteville, WV
Water Stone Outdoors
101 Wiseman Ave 25840
10 AM - 5 PM

Saturday 5/9

Brooklyn, NY
Pilgrim Surf
68 North 3rd St 11249
11AM - 9 PM
Special Screening: The Fisherman’s Son
8 PM
Sunday 5/10
NYC, NY
Patagonia SoHo Store
72 Greene St 10012
11 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday 5/12
Boston, MA
Patagonia Boston
346 Newbury St 02115
11 AM - 5 PM
Hope to see you out there! Do you have a good story about a beloved piece of Patagonia clothing? Please share it on our Worn Wear blog.
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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Earth  |  
 
Deep Sea Drilling Rules and the Transition from Fossil Fuels PDF Print E-mail

The Department of the Interior will soon issue rules for new (not existing) oil drilling operations set to be released on the 5th anniversary of the deadly explosion of a BP oil drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Coral Davenport of the New York Times:

The rule is expected to tighten safety requirements on blowout preventers, the industry-standard devices that are the last line of protection to stop explosions in undersea oil and gas wells...It will be the third and biggest new drilling-equipment regulation put forth by the Obama administration in response to the disaster. In 2010, the Interior Department announced new regulations on drilling well casings, and in 2012, it announced new regulations on the cementing of wells. The latest regulation, a result of several years of study, will be imposed on all future offshore drilling equipment and will be used by the administration to make the case that it can prevent a BP-like disaster as oil exploration expands in the Atlantic.

The government blames the Gulf oil spill on BP and BP blames the explosion on its contractors. BP and its contractors were irresponsible, yes, but I hold the government accountable. In my view, the disaster was actually caused by government's regulatory failure that was a result of the mismanagement and regulatory "capture" of the Department of Interior. The now reorganized Minerals Management Service (MMS) was responsible for generating revenues by leasing federal lands for mining, or drilling, and then regulating the same mining operations it sold leases to. That is an inherent conflict of interest, but it gets worse: The MMS was a revolving door for fossil fuel companies. People left the organization to work in the fossil fuel industry and the Department of Interior depended on the industry for expertise in regulating mining operations.

While the situation has improved under the Obama Administration, it is unlikely that the resource-starved federal government has the technical and organizational capacity to keep up with technological advances in the deep sea drilling industry. The expansion of drilling anticipated by the Administration, and the memory of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, will provide a fig leaf of political cover for the new rules--but the new rules are not enough. The additional drilling will increase the probability of catastrophic spills like the one that took place five years ago.

Although increased drilling and limited organizational capacity in the Department of Interior will increase the probability of further accidents, industry itself has not forgotten the horror of the Gulf oil spill and has been working to improve safety performance. Perhaps for that reason the Department of Interior has not been subjected to the typical level of right wing rhetoric around "job-killing regulations" as they move to issue these new rules. According to Jennifer A. Dlouhy of the Longview (Texas) News-Journal:

While the oil industry may bristle at some of the mandates, the long shadow cast by the Deepwater Horizon disaster likely will force officials to temper their criticism. There were signs of that this past week, as leaders of three major industry trade groups touted safety improvements the sector has voluntarily made since the spill.

New oil supplies will increase burning of fossil fuels and lead to additional accumulations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When coupled with the risk to ecosystems posed by deep sea drilling, it is easy to be uneasy about this regulation. I question the Department of Interior's ability to implement the regulation, and wonder why the Administration continues to pursue this ill advised "all of the above" energy (non-) strategy. Tighter rules are a good idea; additional drilling leases are a bad idea.

I realize that we need to face up to the fact that we are addicted to fossil fuels and require them for our daily lives. The laptop I am writing this on is not powered by renewable energy but by whatever my local utility uses to power the grid. The time and energy devoted by the government to increasing American oil drilling capacity may play well politically, but takes us further from the day we can replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. "Drill baby drill" makes as little sense today as it did when Sarah Palin was pushing it.

It is important to acknowledge the importance of fossil fuels to the economy, and to understand how long it will take and how difficult it will be to transition away from these sources of energy. But that does not mean we should lease more federal lands to mine fossil fuels. The politics of renewable energy is complicated. The public likes the idea of shifting to renewables, but does not see the transition as a particularly high priority. They do not share the sense of urgency expressed by experts in ecology and climate science. Climate change, biodiversity loss, ecosystems damage and environmental impacts are not always visible and are often difficult to fully understand. We introduce new technologies into our production processes and waste cycles before we understand their impact on the environmental systems we rely on. When impacts are obvious and visible they achieve political salience and we are moved to act. Polluted drinking water in Charleston, West Virginia, radioactivity near Fukushima, Japan and air quality in Beijing, China are easy to see, sense and act on. Other forms of environmental damage must be modeled, projected or imagined and have lower political impact.

The environment is not the only issue that acts this way. In the 1990s, New York City's homicide rate was about seven times higher than today. Crime was the city's highest priority political issue. But today, the NYPD Commissioner can't get a budget increase to hire more cops. If the recent spike in killings increases, the issue may reemerge, but in politics out of sight is not only out of mind, it's out of the budget too.

The fossil fuel industry has a long history of effective lobbying. The oil embargo of the mid-1970s and the subsequent drive for energy "independence" increased the industry's political clout. The imagery of long gas lines and rapidly rising gasoline prices has had a lasting and powerful effect on American politics. The emergence of a global economy and a global market for fossil fuels has not penetrated America's political consciousness. Oil drilled in the United States might end up here, or it might be shipped someplace else if the price is right. The Middle East no longer dominates the oil market as it once did. The recent reductions in the price of oil provide an indication of the complexity and volatility of the fossil fuel market place. Nevertheless, the renewable energy industry has far less political influence than the fossil fuel industry, and the transition to renewable energy would be faster if that imbalance could be rectified.

There are two paths for the renewable energy industry to displace the fossil fuel industry. The first is for a transformational technological breakthrough that would provide energy that is as cheap and as reliable as fossil fuels. This could happen without government intervention in the same way that Apple and Microsoft developed and commercialized revolutionary software that made the personal computer possible. The second path is for a national government to provide aggressive incentives to adopt existing technologies and to fund the research and development needed to develop new technologies. The United States is capable of the first path. However, given our dysfunctional federal government and the role of fossil fuel money in politics, we are incapable of the second path. China and Europe may well be capable of pursuing both paths. While the economy is global, national sovereignty is still a critical force in world politics, and our children and their children will wonder why we sacrificed this piece of their economic future.

As for the deep sea drilling regulation, improved regulation of this complex and dangerous process is a good idea. Still, I wonder why it took five years to study and rectify this situation. I also wonder why the rules only apply to new drilling operations. Don't we care about safety in existing rigs? Finally, why are we drilling there in the first place? Clearly we've used up some of the oil that was easy to get to. I know that most of the planet is covered by water but isn't it time to develop an alternative energy that is safer and cleaner than fossil fuels?



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Rapid Global Warming May Be Coming Sooner Than You Think PDF Print E-mail

A new study bolsters the case that a period of much faster global warming may be imminent, if not already beginning. The study, published Wednesday in Geophysical Research Letters, uses climate records gleaned from coral reefs in the South Pacific to recreate sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content dating back to 1791. The corals examined were from Fiji, Tonga and Rarotonga.

Information from the geochemistry of coral reef core samples reveals how ocean surface temperatures have varied over time in the South Pacific, along with how the uptake and release of upper ocean heat content has varied over time, as well. The insights they provide, together with other recent research, carry important implications for how global warming may play out during the next two decades or so.

The news that the coral reef core samples (combined with other climate signals) bring is not good, either.

Drilling Coral

Researchers drilling coral reefs for climate data.

Image: Braddock Linsley

The research is important for understanding present-day climate because it demonstrates that there are regular decade-to-decade fluctuations in ocean surface temperatures and ocean heat content in the South Pacific that correlate with cycles of climate variability in other parts of the Pacific.

The results suggest that when a cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, switches to a “positive mode,” the world will see faster temperature increases than it has since about 1999. The PDO, as it happens, has just switched into strongly positive territory.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the positive phase of the PDO — which features milder-than-average water temperatures along the West Coast of North America and parts of the South Pacific, as well as cooler ocean conditions in the central North Pacific — has persisted since July 2014.

The slowdown in the rate of global warming since the late-1990s, commonly referred to as the "global warming hiatus," has been a chimera, since more heat has been deposited into ocean waters during the period, according to this study and several others. Once the PDO flips and stays flipped, that heat will be rapidly released into the atmosphere, increasing global average temperatures.

Monthly PDO Index

Monthly PDO index showing the flip to positive in recent months.

Image: Japan Meteorological Agency

The PDO’s phases are similar in function to a bank's ATM, with the negative phase allowing for more heat to be deposited in the ocean depths. When the PDO flips to positive, that heat gets withdrawn from the heat savings account, accelerating manmade global warming.

In some ways, the PDO may be acting like the chief financial officer of a company, helping modulate the rate at which Earth's heat spending takes place.

Since the PDO may have flipped to a strongly positive phase recently, this puts the climate system on a path toward rapid warming in coming years, assuming the PDO doesn’t flip right back, which is also possible.

According to Brad Linsley, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York and an author of the new study, decadal changes in South Pacific ocean surface temperatures tend to be “highly correlated” with the phases of the PDO. In an interview, he said the climate record going back to the late 1700s shows regular intervals of variability of sea surface temperatures and ocean heat uptake rates, with the phases lasting 20 to 25 years or so.

Linsley said he and his colleagues examined three coral sites in the South Pacific, and constructed a composite climate index that shows a strong correlation with upper ocean heat content since about 1950. “The linkage between decadal changes in sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content is a first,” he told Mashable in an email.

The study shows that when it’s warm in the South Pacific, the waters at the equator tend to be cooler than average. In addition, when ocean temperatures are cooler than average in the South Pacific, the North Pacific also tends to be unusually cool, which is a hallmark sign of the PDO’s positive phase.

“The recurring decadal SST pattern in the Pacific also suggests that the pause in global warming (the "hiatus") will end when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) next reverses phase,” Linsley wrote to reporters. “With a mean PDO recurrence interval of about 20 years between PDO phases, and with the most recent PDO phase switch occurring in about 1999, this suggests the hiatus will end in about 2020. A stretch, but a prediction from this work.”

Many other studies have pointed to a rapid buildup of heat in middle ocean depths across the Pacific Ocean during the past several decades, with a particular speed-up since the late 1990s. Linsley was a coauthor of a study published in the journal Science in 2013, which found that the Pacific’s middle ocean depths have warmed 15 times faster in the past 60 years compared to the long-term cooling that had persisted for the previous 10,000 years.

Another recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that, during the next four decades, Earth's climate is headed for a rate of warming unseen in at least the past millennium. This could be enormously harmful since the rate of warming may be beyond many species’ capacity to adapt to a changing climate.

It will be a few years before it's clear that the climate has entered a period of higher heat spending or not, but many signs right now are pointing to yes.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.



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What Record Drought Means for California's Future PDF Print E-mail

U.S. drought map for April 22, 2014.
U.S. drought conditions reveal all of California is experiencing at least moderate drought.
Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Wildfires, water rationing and snow-free mountaintops are all becoming the new norm in California.

The Golden State is experiencing the most severe drought on record, and research suggests the conditions will only worsen in the coming decades.

"Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we've seen in probably the last 1,000 years," said Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

But despite the drier conditions and the apocalyptic headlines, California is unlikely to become a parched, uninhabitable hellscape, experts say. Southern California's forest may transform into scrub and grassland. And a drier climate may force a transformation or reduction of the state's agricultural economy. But with some forethought and planning, the state should have enough water to support the millions of people who live there, experts say. [6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change]

"In the next few decades, warming is not going to cause California to be a wasteland," said A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City.

Drying trend

California is facing its worst drought on record, with snowpack in the state's Sierra Nevada at an all-time low. About 98 percent of the state is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The past several years of low rain and snowfall aren't that unusual. But thanks to greenhouse gas emissions, California is warmer, on average, than it has been in the recent past. That hotter weather means the water that falls on the ground evaporates quickly, said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climatologist at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.

"We're on the cusp in California of having every year be a warm year, which means that when low precipitation does occur there's going to be a much higher risk that that low precipitation produces drought," Diffenbaugh told Live Science.

In a study published in February in the journal Science Advances, Cook and his colleagues found that the risk of a megadrought this century would rise dramatically if greenhouse gas emissions aren't checked. As a result, though California typically faces droughts that last from one to three years, the state could experience droughts that last several years or even two to four decades, Cook said.

Changing landscape

The dryer, hotter conditions will transform the landscape. The forests in Southern California may give way to shrub and grassland, Williams said.

And that transition won't be gradual. In areas that have experienced similar changes, "these transitions occur largely as catastrophes," Williams told Live Science.

For instance, wildfires or bark beetle infestations will likely take out patches of forest over a matter of weeks or a few seasons, Williams said.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range has a diverse set of plants and animal species, so the proportions of those species may change. Because climate models predict slightly more winter precipitation and relatively constant temperatures, the coastal redwoods of Northern California, which depend on fog, are likely to be OK, Williams said.

Avoiding catastrophe

Still, there is time to ensure enough water is available for the millions who live in the state, all the experts Live Science spoke with said.

"There are a lot of opportunities to deal with these potentially significant droughts in the future, but we just need to be a little bit proactive about it and we need to plan ahead," Cook said.

However, Californians have a short memory when it comes to droughts and don't follow through with actions taken during drought years, he said. For instance, desalination plants were built during droughts, but then partly dismantled when precipitation levels rose, Williams said. [The Worst Droughts In U.S. History]

To address the water shortage, the state must tackle agricultural water use, which comprises about 70 to 80 percent of the state's total water usage. Water-hogging plants such as almonds and lettuce may need to take a back seat to more drought-tolerant crops, Cook said. The state could help subsidize a shift to drip irrigation, which delivers moisture directly to a plant's roots. Long-term, agriculture may become a less prominent part of the economy, Williams said.

Slowing the pace of climate change could decrease how dramatically the state changes, though some climactic change is already baked in, Diffenbaugh said. And steps to improve water storage during wet years, like increasing the use of reservoirs, could also help, Cook said.

To prevent or slow ecosystem change, the state should prioritize controlled burns — where forest managers thin the forest with small fires — so that ecosystem-altering conflagrations like the 2013 Yosemite Rim Fire don't have enough wood on the forest floor to get going, Williams said.

Either way, to avoid catastrophe the system needs to adapt to the coming reality. California has built complex systems for managing water policy and infrastructure, but those systems need to be rethought, Diffenbaugh said.

"Those were all built in an old climate, and the reality is, we're in a new climate," Diffenbaugh said.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.



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