Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Update: Dealing With Flood Waters

This winter’s deep snow pack combined with heavy rains last week and this week continue to leave lakes and ponds brimming, and rivers and streams swollen with cold and fast water. All major rivers are at or above flood stage and flooding continues to occur and is expected to continue through Friday. Except for the Tug Hill Plateau, Flood Warnings continue to be in effect across the region. Roads and trails around the region have been reported closed, several roads and bridges have collapsed, and major flooding has forced evacuations along the Hudson, Schroon, Ausable, Bouquet, Saranac, Moose, Black and Raquette Rivers, and along Lake Champlain and many other water bodies around the Adirondacks.

The NYS Department of Environmetnal Conservation has issued the following announcement about continued flooding and the environmental risks associated with flooding.

Gasoline and Oil Spills

DEC is warning homeowners and building owners with flooded basements to check for sheens or odors from gasoline, oil or substances that may have leaked from fuel oil storage tanks, furnaces or motorized equipment before pumping out water. If a sheen or odor is present, contact the DEC Spills Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362.

If pumping is already occurring when sheens or odors are discovered, cease pumping immediately. A mixture of gasoline or oil and water can impact the surface water, ground water and soils when pumped and released into the environment. It is best to collect and remove spilled gasoline and oil while it is still contained in a basement. DEC Spills staff will work with home and building owners to determine the most effective means to address the spill.

Repairing Flood Damaged Streambanks and Lake Shorelines

Property owners who have streams or shorelines which have been eroded or otherwise damaged by flooding should check with the DEC Environmental Permits Office before undertaking repair work to determine if a permit or emergency authorization is required. Depending on the situation, work immediately necessary for the protection of life, health, general welfare, property or natural resources may be authorized under emergency authorization procedures. Projects for the purpose of shoreline restoration and erosion protection are subject to a permit application process.

DEC provides a number of documents on its website to assist in developing a shoreline stabilization project:

Stream Crossings

Stream Crossings: Guidelines and Best Management Practices


Shoreline Stabilization

Shoreline Stabilization Techniques

Applying for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Site Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Project Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Locks

Both the Lower Locks, located between First Pond and Oseetah Lake and the Upper Locks, located between Lower Saranac Lake and Middle Saranac Lake, are closed to public usage until further notice. High waters and large amount of debris are still preventing the operation of the locks.

Boat Launch Sites

Most boat launches in the region are flooded, making it risky to launch and retrieve boats. Boaters not familiar with the location of the various structures on around the boat launch (ramps, walkways, docks, posts, etc.) that are now underwater risk damaging trailers and boats when launching or retrieving boats.

Water Recreation

Paddlers and boaters should continue to stay off of rivers and streams. Water levels are high and water temperatures are low, rivers and streams are running swiftly. Cold waters increase the risk of hypothermia and drowning if you should fall into the water.

Waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards such as boulders, rock shelves, docks and other structures that normally are easily seen and avoided.

Backcountry Recreation

The previous warning to keep out of the backcountry has been rescinded. However, hikers and campers should be aware of the conditions they can expect to encounter in the backcountry. Streams are still high and extra caution should be used at stream crossings without foot bridges.

Trails are muddy and wet. Hikers should be prepared for these conditions by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails. Trails and campsites adjacent to waters may be flooded.

Blowdown may be found on trails, it is expected that large trees may have been blown over due to winds and saturated soils. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes still exists, particularly if the forecasted rain occurs.

Snow is present in elevations above 2900 feet, and snowshoes are required in elevations above 3200 feet.

The full weekly Adirondack Conditions Report will run Thursday afternoon here at the Almanack, and Friday morning on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Photo: A snowmobile sits in flood waters on the Schroon River in Chestertown. Photo courtesy John Warren.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rock Climbing: Life on the Sharp End

Rock climbers call it the sharp end of the rope. That would be the end attached to the lead climber, the one taking the risks. Some say you haven’t really climbed until you’ve been on the sharp end.

Cambridge University Press’s online dictionary defines “sharp end” as the part of any activity “where the most problems are likely to be found.” Having experienced the sharp end of the rope for the first time last weekend, I would say that about sums things up.

Unlike the following climber (the “second’’), a leader risks injury or even death if he falls. Although the leader places protection during the climb, meant to hold him in a fall, if he slips, he will plummet twice as far as he ascended above his last piece of “pro”—and a bit more if you factor in slack and rope stretch. Thus, if he is ten feet above his last piece, he falls more than twenty feet. In contrast, when the leader belays the second climber from above, he keeps the rope taut, so if the second slips, he falls hardly at all.

Although I never led a climb before Sunday, I had climbed solo on multi-pitch routes on Chapel Pond Slab. You’d think that solo climbing, with no rope or protection, would be more unnerving than leading a climb. Strangely, I found that wasn’t the case.

Anybody attempting a lead climb for the first time should choose a route well within his ability. I did two short routes — “Return Home” and “And She Was” — on the Roast and Boast Slab in Wilmington Notch (my son, Nathan, belayed me). Both are rated 5.2 in the Yosemite Decimal System. Essentially, they’re novice climbs.

So why did I feel less comfortable leading the 80-foot And She Was (named for a Talking Heads song) than I did soloing the 800-foot Regular Route on Chapel Pond Slab, which is rated 5.5?

For one thing, I think my reaction says something about the subjectivity of the rating system. Most of Regular Route is straightforward slab climbing that requires little technique. And She Was, in contrast, follows a series of cracks. Which route you find easier will depend on whether you prefer slab climbing or crack climbing. I enjoy both, but for whatever reason, I felt more comfortable on Regular Route.

More important, though, lead climbing is simply harder than solo climbing. You’ve got all that heavy gear—wired nuts, cams, and carabiners—hanging off your harness. It tends to get in the way. You’re also dragging a rope behind you. It sometimes tugs at you, and it might even throw you off balance. Finally, you have to stop frequently to wedge a nut or cam into a crack and clip the rope to it, trying to maintain your position on the cliff with one hand while the other fiddles with the gear. To top things off, if you’re new to leading, you’re bound to have doubts about whether that protection will hold in a fall. I sure did.

I suspect the fears and doubts will subside as I gain experience, but I don’t imagine they ever go completely away, and that’s probably a good thing. Fear keeps you alert.

But why climb at all? Why take any risk? I pondered that question after taking an unroped fall on the Eagle Slide last summer. I wrote about the fall briefly in this story in the Adirondack Explorer. In the newsmagazine’s current issue, I describe the fall in more detail with my commentary. Click here to read it.

Photo of climber’s rack by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Stuart Little Free For Mothers

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Once again commercials are doling out advice on what to get me for Mother’s Day. Well, not just me but any mother. Jewelry and flowers seem to have a stronghold of the market share of Mother’s Day ad dollars. If I were to dog-ear each magazine ad or keep the TV on during the commercials, clearly the hints would lead to some sort of diamond tiara coming my way. Though I have been bedazzling a few items with my daughter (because everything does look better with a bit of sparkle) I feel saddened by those commercials that only indicate that buying something expensive is the way to appreciate the one who labored through birth and probably wiped a few noses as well.

Saranac Lake’s Pendragon Theatre offers a win-win situation for families. Mothers get to see the family show on Mother’s Day for free (so it’s a bit of a savings) and it is a wonderful way to spend a few enjoyable hours together.

On May 8th, Pendragon Theatre will open with the E.B. White classic story of Stuart Little adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette. Personally I belief that seeing a family play isn’t just for people with kids. Sometimes in my hectic life I want to be reminded of magic and animals that talk and to be pulled along into a story that exercises my imagination. Stuart Little promises all of that.

Pendragon Theatre Managing Director and Co-Founder Bob Pettee says,” There will be no intermission during Stuart Little. It is a one act play. The basic story is of a couple who have an unusual son, a talking mouse. We follow the mouse on a series of adventures and meet a variety of characters along the way.”

“It is told in a story theatre where six actors play about 24-30 various characters,” says Pettee. “The actor playing Stuart Little will be altered throughout the season by two younger people (about 10 or 11) with stage experience. The play is done very simply with minimal costume and props.”

The 1:00 p.m. show is general seating only with the next performance happening on June 29. There will be a limited run of nine performances for this showing of the little mouse throughout the summer and into the fall. Admission is $10 for adults and seniors, $8 for those 6-15 and $5 for anyone 5 and under. For more information, please call the theatre at 518-891-1854.

“We are not doing our regular repertory theatre this season, that so many people have come to count on,” Pettee announces, “This season some of the shows will only be performed over a limited period of time so I urge people to not wait to the end.”

Pettee specifically mentions Sweeney Todd (opening July 13 with 12 performances) Mouse Trap (opening August 18 with nine performances) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (opening July 27 with ten performances). Pettee wants to make sure audience members know to check the schedule and not rely on each performance traveling to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

I can not say what my family will do for me on Mother’s Day. I hope it has something to do with copious amounts of coffee and an activity we will all do together that includes a talking mouse.


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mountain Biking The Whiteface Bike Park

With summer on the way, biking at the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park is about to begin. High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid stepped in to operate the park in 2005 after the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) decided to eliminate the biking to focus on winter improvements, while Gore Mountain’s biking program was also discontinued.

“Downhill Mike” Scheur, a representative of the bike park says, “That’s when [High Peaks Cyclery] decided to step up with doing 100% of trail maintenance, take over shuttle operations and all work associated with running a successful bike park at Whiteface”.

All ages and abilities can enjoy mountain biking, even though it is commonly considered a risky sport. Like skiing, the bike park has novice, intermediate, and advanced trails. The unique aspect of mountain biking is the terrain, however, which is often through woods and over rocks and streams, providing an entirely different experience from regular biking. Beginner mountain bikers should stay at the lower mountain, as the upper mountain trails are indeed some of the most advanced trails anywhere. A gondola transports advanced riders to the upper mountain. A shuttle is available for beginner and intermediate transport, and a lift pass for $35 per day provides unlimited transport via the gondola or shuttle bus. With a little bit of practice, beginners should be able to graduate from beginner trails, to intermediate, and finally to advanced. For new bikers, lessons are available for $35 an hour.

Lift service mountain biking became popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when ski resorts started adding mountain biking to their list of mountain-based activities during the summer. According to Scheur, the potential is enormous for mountain biking in Lake Placid: “At least 25 resorts within a few hours of Lake Placid run their lifts in the summer for bikes. Whistler actually profits more in the summer than the winter now, due to their bike park”.

There is more than just mountain biking available at the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park – the facilities also include a pump track. Pump tracks are oval shaped tracks with rolling bumps on the straight-a-ways and banked corners, which enables the rider to gain speed without pedaling. The track also teaches the rider efficiency skills which will increase their mountain biking prowess and provides a fun diversion from the mountain trails.

For those without equipment the park handles rentals, service, and sales at the base area. “We also have regular (cross country) bikes and kid’s bikes,” Scheur said. “It turns out many are afraid to ride Whiteface thinking it’s only for the very experienced. Then when they get here, they notice most others are just like them.”

Scheur has high expectations for this coming season. “We have seen an increase of over 350% since we took the bike park over,” he said. “Basically, you need bikers to run the bike park and skiers to run the ski center”.

The Park opens a week before June 17th, which is the date for the Whiteface/Wilmington Bike Fest.

For more information, visit their website at www.downhillmike.com.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dave Gibson: Reform APA Project Review

The Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) adjudicatory public hearing is finally underway. The ACR project was first introduced as a conceptual Adirondack Park Agency (APA) application in 2004. Seven years later, it is still massive, involving 719 dwelling units spread over 6,200 acres near Tupper Lake.

Hearing witnesses gave ample evidence last week that show APA’s staff decision to deem the ACR application complete in the fall of 2006 to have been premature. In reference to the applicant’s repeated failing to produce any kind of serious wildlife or natural resource studies, a key witness for APA, retired director of regulatory programs Mark Sengenberger, noted that APA can only ask for additional information and not receive it so many times. Wildlife habitat was a key piece of that missing information, Sengenberger said. As other witnesses revealed, also missing was any rigorous assessment of alternative designs of the development.

The costs of not requiring comprehensive data before deeming such a complex and controversial application complete are considerable. Between the applicant, the APA and the hearing parties, millions of dollars have been spent over six years in pre-hearing phases of the ACR without arriving at any deep understanding of the site to be developed. There are also big gaps in understanding the reliability of infrastructure and financing data in the application. Countless person hours have been spent at APA struggling to get information out of this applicant. I suspect that several legitimate requests from citizens to send other Park projects to hearing were denied, in part, because APA is such a small agency and ACR has consumed too much of its human and economic resources since 2004.

Dr. Michael Klemens, a conservation biologist and witness for Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, stated last week at the hearing: “we are forced to spend time at this hearing debating the lack of biological data, which should have been compiled and assessed before deeming the application complete, while instead this hearing should be discussing the implications of a robust set of ecological information that actually informs how and where to site development.”

In characterizing the proposed layout of development on the ACR site, Dr. Klemens stated “this is classic sprawl on steroids.” The ACR spreads negative ecological impacts out across the landscape, he stated. He added that by compacting the design to be less fragmenting of the landscape, many objectives would be met, both economic and ecological. Less money would be spent simply reaching the site with infrastructure, for example, while the impact or zones of influence of development on sensitive areas would be smaller. His testimony revealed a well known process to successfully build housing in sensitive landscapes that involves developing a complete understanding of the project site first, mapping that information, and only then developing plans for housing which avoids the most sensitive areas and maintains the integrity of ecological processes.

This could have happened for ACR, but unfortunately this application does the very opposite, he noted. Only the APA can determine why they allowed this to happen, he stated. Asked whether or not there is sufficient biological and ecological information in the application for the APA to reach a determination of no undue adverse impact, Dr. Klemens stated “there is insufficient data to make such a determination.”

Asked whether the APA could merely place conditions on a defective application which purport to “mitigate” adverse impacts, Dr. Klemens said “a defective application should never be conditioned. It should simply be denied without prejudice, and the applicant given time to develop that information, and resubmit the application.”

Dr. Klemens is the Planning Board chairman for a town in Connecticut. In that capacity, he said he often imposes expectations on developers working within a complex, ecologically important site to identify and map sensitive resources prior to laying out development sites. “Understand the site first, and from that understanding develop plans for housing or other development.” In fact, he noted, in his experience fast-tracked applications are those that have developed good biological and natural resource data. That way, conflict is reduced, development occurs in the less sensitive places, and money is saved. The “train wrecks” result when a process does not allow for understanding natural systems in the first place, like the ACR.

In responding to cross examination, Dr. Klemens took time to explain his view that his testimony is not about whether or not development should or can take place on the ACR site. It is very likely that development is compatible with areas on the site, he said. The “real issue involved in this hearing is the amount, intensity and lay-out of that development. That’s the key.”

How can the APA use the ACR experience to improve its project review? One way is to mimic the way its sister agency, DEC, as well as many town and county planning boards utilize the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Act. After determining that a project may have one or more significant environmental impacts, a step known as a positive declaration of impact, the lead agency in SEQR must require an environmenal impact statement (EIS) of the developer. Project scoping invites the public to comment on the proposed topics to be covered by the EIS. “The purpose of scoping is to focus the EIS on the most relevant issues and potential impacts, including means to avoid or minimize those impacts; the lead agency may thereby ensure that the draft EIS will be a concise, accurate and complete (emphasis mine) document adequate for public review” (from: www.dec.ny.gov).

Think of the APA application process as a version of SEQR, and the APA’s review as a kind of EIS. Before deeming an application complete, the agency could invite the public to help APA undertake project scoping in order to ensure that an application actually and thoroughly answers key questions, and provides the information required for a comprehensive review of impacts. If that process were used, there might be more meaningful constituent participation with APA and fewer “train wrecks” like ACR, where so much time is spent at an APA hearing debating the paucity and reliability of information and data needed by the commissioners to reach a sound, post-hearing decision. In fact, I remember several APA commissioners suggesting this very reform of their own project review of large projects in 2008, following their approval of the FrontStreet application in North Creek. I have yet to see positive results from their suggestions.

Photo: Dr. Michael Klemens points to a map of ACR during his testimony at the public hearing last week.


Monday, May 2, 2011

When Ice Goes Out The Loons Arrive

It is always difficult to predict when the ice will go out on a given body of water in the Adirondacks, however, it is easy to say when that waterway will be occupied by a loon, as this symbol of the northern wilderness always seems to arrive within hours of the ice disappearing.

The urge to return to its breeding territory is especially strong in male loons. Because of a recent population increase in this species, there can be intense competition for the remote sections of the large lakes and back country ponds that are highly attractive to this bird with the haunting voice. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Commentary: Gas Prices, History, and the Gas Tax

On a gas pump near Plattsburgh a few days ago, the price for Regular Grade was just under $4.20 per gallon. Check this out: “The American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report says that despite a sharp increase in crude oil output … there have been extensive gasoline price advances.” And, regarding local prices, “there has been a long agitation against what northern New York motorists have considered discrimination against the North Country.”

“The committee appointed last Tuesday by the New York Development Association will investigate the reason for the difference in the price of gasoline in northern New York as compared with prices charged in Utica and Syracuse.” Here’s why you SHOULDN’T be encouraged by those quotes: they’re taken from the 1920s.

History can be fun, entertaining, and educational, but it can also provide guidelines to the future. And that’s where society tends to fail so often, a fault alluded to in the old proverb suggesting that those forgetting the past are doomed to repeat it. This price-of-gas situation has happened often in the past, and here we go again. Same problems, same rhetoric, same lack of results.

Average Americans have been sold the big lie over and over, and we keep coming back for more. If you recall: the occasional fuel crises from now back through the 1980s; gas rationing in the 1970s (remember odd-and-even days, long lines at the pumps, and limited purchases?); and other similar periods, then tell me if this sounds familiar: “FTC hearings will be held on the unexplained rising price of gasoline, in compliance with a senate resolution.”

That quote is from 1916, and the price increase wasn’t “unexplained.” It was gouging by the oil companies during World War I. It was okay to screw the public, but not the feds. Within a year of when the US finally joined the fight, Federal Fuel Administrator H. A. Garfield announced he was studying plans “to fix the price of gasoline for domestic customers, as well as for the government and Allies, at a lower figure than the present market price.”

In the years immediately following the war, gas prices doubled, and for good reason: the sales of cars skyrocket in the 1920s, and what better way for oil companies to take advantage than raise the price of fuel for those millions of new vehicles?

Of course, the same arguments you hear today were applied then: it’s not greed, it’s capitalism and the market’s natural response to supply and demand forces. Greater demand supposedly drove prices higher, and the poor oil companies were forced to reap historic profits. Why, oh why, does that sound so familiar?

It continues nearly a century later … just look at Exxon and Chevron’s recent quarterly statements. Fighting back against these behemoths hasn’t been successful. The rising prices of the early 1920s prompted another federal investigation led by Senator LaFollette, who said, “Unless there is government intervention, the price of gasoline will be pushed beyond the reach of the ordinary automobile owner.” Again, of course, the findings were ignored.

There may be a good reason why nothing concrete resulted from all of the investigations. In 1919, Oregon became the first state to institute a gasoline tax intended to provide funding for the repair and maintenance of roadways. It looked like a great system, and the idea spread across the country. Governments soon corrupted the process, simply taxing gasoline as a revenue source.

It’s almost impossible to believe, but New York was one of the last two states to follow suit. (Here’s one thing to be proud of, though—we’ve managed to regroup and pass every state in the tax category). In 1929, Governor Franklin Roosevelt signed a large farm-aid legislative package that included the Hewitt-Pratt bill, a clause that led him to threaten a veto.

Hewitt-Pratt contained this order: “Moneys paid into the state treasury pursuant to this subdivision [the gas tax] shall be appropriated and used for the maintenance and repair of the improved roads of the state, under the direction of the superintendent of public works.”

Well, sort of. The state imposed a two-cent gas tax, returning a percentage of the take to the individual counties based on road mileage, and depositing the remainder in the state treasury.

Raising the price of gas posed a concern, but not to worry. State Tax Commissioner Thomas Lynch said that when the law kicked in on May 1, there was “no assurance that the public would pay two cents more for gas.” Since it was taxed at the source (the distributors), Lynch said the oil companies would probably just absorb the cost. Nostradamus had nothing to worry about.

As for that new money in the treasury? In no time at all, politicians were appropriating gas-tax funds for a variety of non-road-related uses. Once the feeding frenzy began, it was all over. Requests to raise the gas tax soon became routine. After all, it was a state income bonanza.

Even a county as small as Clinton paid $293,000 in 1932, of which only $96,000 came back for highway use. By 1934, the gas tax itself amounted to 24 percent of the price. In 1934, the state took in $85 million from the gas tax, $50 million of which was diverted for non-highway use. (That very same issue arose recently with the loss of the Lake Champlain Bridge.)

It probably comes as no surprise that, in 1929, the Supreme Court rejected efforts by the states to treat gasoline as a public utility. Natural gas and electricity were somehow necessary, but gas was deemed a commodity that we could do with or without. And so Standard Oil (the father of virtually every major oil company) won the right to regulate itself.

It was business as usual—move into an area, depress prices by lowering its own price, put the competition out of business, and then raise prices at their whim. Walmart has been accused of employing the same tactics. (Today’s ExxonMobil was formerly known as Standard Oil.)

What were the answers to the gas-price problems in the 1990s? The 1970s? The 1920s? All the same. Oil companies flourished while consumers, victimized by high prices, explored electric cars, ethanol fuel, and sometimes just did without. The huge ethanol movement of a few years ago was hardly different from 1997 and 1927, mostly serving as a boon for farmers.

So, as prices rise and you begin to see articles and editorials complaining about the oil companies, and about the inexplicably higher cost of gas in the North Country, it may be a story, but it’s not news. There’s nothing new about it.

Photo Top: Steep price for gas.

Photo Bottom: 1929 advertisement for ethanol.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Guest Essay: Lessons from the 2010 Census

What follows is a guest essay by Ken Strike, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University and member of the board of Protect the Adirondacks. Ken and Lorraine Duvall produced a demographic study of the Adirondacks following 2009’s Adirondack Park Regional Assessment (APRAP) report. The Almanack asked Ken, who lives in Thendara on the Moose River, to provide his perspective on the 2010 Census.

What does the 2010 census tell us about ourselves? The Adirondack population is basically flat with growth in some places and losses in others, and our population is aging. For some it has been easy to conclude that these demographics are the result of a poor economy and that this poor economy results from public ownership of land and the Park’s regulatory environment. However, a more careful reading of the 2010 census data tea leaves does not support these views. Rather, they suggest that we are much like other rural areas – in fact we’re better off than many. Our population dynamics also track the dynamics of the U.S. and NYS white population. No great surprise that. And they suggest that the Park is an asset, not a liability. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adirondack Ice: Local Ice-Out Contests

For many, springtime (mud-season) looms as the longest and most trying of seasons. Skating, skiing, ice fishing and other winter sports are no longer possible; hiking trips await drier footing, paddling is on hold until the ice goes out. Adirondackers, often in some desperation, look for diversions to help them survive this interminable time of year.

With the arrival of March, temperatures start to swing wildly from 5º to 65º. Water drips, brooks babble and lake ice slowly dwindles away; not sinking as some would believe, but rather becoming porous and water filled until finally it melts completely and disappears. This happens bit by bit in different parts of lakes and over a period of many days. Ever resourceful, residents take advantage of this phenomenon to provide entertainment in the form of ice-out contests. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Curt Stager’s Fresh Look at Climate Change

Paul Smiths College Professor Curt Stager’s new book, Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) is a fresh look at global climate change. Stager’s approach is that of the paleoecologist, a discipline that has traditionally been focused on reconstructing the paleoenvironment using the fossil record to clarify the relationship that plants, animals, and humans have to their environment in the past.

Typically, paleoecological researchers have aimed their attentions on the Quaternary period (the last two million years), particularity with studies of the Holocene epoch (the last 11,000 years), or the Pleistocene glaciation period (50,000 to 10,000 years ago). Stager’s Deep Future looks in the other direction, 100,000 years into the future.

Stager is quick to point out that no, humans won’t go extinct; some species will win, some lose, because after temperatures rise, they’ll fall (at a slower rate). Deep Future is built around the Anthropocene, the first epoch in which humans have come to influence the Earth’s ecosystems.

Scientists are somewhat divided over when the Anthropocene begins. Some suggest 8,000 years ago, when we began clearing forests to raise animals and grow crops during the Neolithic Revolution, others establish a date as late as the Industrial Revolution of the 1750s. Both agree that what’s significant is that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing at a faster rate, and to a much greater extent, that previous glacial-interglacial cycles of the past million years, and that humans are the cause.

Deep Future illuminates the changes of the coming 100,000 years, among them the effect we’ve already had in delaying the next ice age. Describing himself as a “converted climate skeptic” thanks in part to research at Paul Smiths into weather and lake ice records in the Adirondacks, Stager explores the idea that our distant descendants may well applaud us for the changes we cause, but many of the earth’s species will suffer dramatic transformations. Acidification of our oceans will impact sea species, shifting micro climates will force great species migrations to adapt, which on land may be blocked by human development.

The bottom line of Deep Future is that what we decide to do now about controlling our carbon emissions will have tremendous impacts on our future descendants. Putting it into an even larger context, Stager offers this unique perspective: “If we burn through all our fossil fuels now, we will leave nothing for the people of the future to burn to stave off future ice ages and prevent the crushing devastation of migrating ice sheets.”

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


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