Category Archives: Rants

Extreme Environmentalists, the Gulf Oil Disaster and ANWR.

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Excuse my rant; but, this is my blog, and I’m about to wander in the mtns for a while. Before I go, I need to speak out.

I read earlier today of ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s latest comments about the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. She states “Radical environmentalists: you are damaging the planet with your efforts to lock up safer drilling areas”.

Her basic premise is that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is the work and responsibility of “extreme environmentalists”. Let’s disregard, for now, the fact that she’s been a proponent of offshore drilling for years now (including her 2008 run for VP where she repeatedly claimed that Drill Baby, Drill “also means safely tapping into our offshore sources, safely, environmentally safe”. In her own words, whilst debating then-Senator Joe Biden she stammered “You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore — as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that.

“friendly”? If it weren’t so sad it would be farcical; what the hell is “friendly” about extracting crude oil from beneath the ocean? Makes me wonder what kind of “friends” some of these people keep.  If one of my friends came over to the house and started drilling a hole 20 000′ into the lawn I’d say they’re outta their mind.

I’ve no problem with a discussion of the collective responsibility owned by our society. I hopefully made that clear in my earlier post here. But I won’t absolve the oil industry of their responsibility, nor the clowns who would reduce a discussion of the energy policy of the world’s largest energy consumer to a 3-word bumper-sticker slogan: “Drill Here, Drill Now”  of theirs, which is the intent of Palin’s outburst. Sarah Palin’s remarks, along with this childish assessment from Ted Nugent is not an honest critique of any social construct at all. In fact, it’s nothing more than the opposite of that; an attempt to divert attention from the direct and very palpable targets of hella-oil, political corruption and bumper-sticker political campaigns to a somewhat more nebulous, transparent target. That is intolerable. Continue reading

Designating Wilderness: your choice.

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Hey Folks,

Last night I attended  public comment hearing for the preliminary stages of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In short, this comment period allows the public to offer information and thoughts on some of the issues they feel might need to be addressed, and oftentimes their thoughts as to how those issues should be addressed. The CCP will be a document that “outlines and guides long-term management” of the Refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are the land management agency responsible for managing the Refuge. If you would like to add your input at this stage, here is Comment Form for the Refuge. Before you do, it’s worth browsing the FWS ANWR webpage for some useful ideas on how this works (they’re not looking for reasons why the coastal plain might or might not be opened to drilling – that decision is to be the work of Congress, not the simple folks of the FWS).

One of the critical topics up for discussion is the designation of  “wilderness” in the Refuge. Currently, nearly half (41%) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 19.3 million acres is designated wilderness. The remaining 10 million acres are not currently designated “wilderness”. The FWS are presently proposing to study these areas and determine whether or not they qualify as wilderness; the ‘Wilderness Review‘ section of the CCP. A recommendation could then be made to Congress to designate these areas wilderness. Such a designation would render the Refuge off-limits to oil and gas extraction.

The arguments were the same tired commentaries we’ve heard countless times now; Continue reading

A Tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico

Hiker playing Native American Indian flute on the arctic coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska.

Playing a Native American Indian flute on the arctic coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I’ve been wanting to write for the last week about the current Gulf Oil disaster, but haven’t really been quite sure what to say. There are simply so many tangents to this mess that I’ve not known where to start. The deaths of 11 people seem, unfortunately, to fade into the melée of concern about big oil, political ineptness, poisoned ecosystems, fathomless litigations, ad infinitum. The web we weave seems larger than the spread of oil.

It makes sense, to me, to start at home. The reality is that this catastrophe stares us right in the eyeball. The mirror reflects our own lives – I drive a car, I love my gore-tex and silnylon tents, my synthetic-fill jacket, my polycarbonate cameras. I eat fresh bananas and whole grain breads shipped here from afar. My computer was flown directly from Shanghai, China. The world I live in is a fossil fuel world. That world includes crude oil belching from the ocean floor into the Gulf of Mexico, and on to Gaia knows where.

So I bear responsibility in this mess; I want cheap gasoline, cheap oil. I complained about the soaring gasoline prices just 2 years ago. I failed to demand that the federal government not exempt BP from an environmental impact study. I failed to demand that Minerals Management Services mandate a remote-control shut-off switch on all drilling operations. I failed to demand that the oil industry follow the strictest, safest procedures possible. Continue reading

Free Photos – bull elk photo

Bull Elk bugling, Jasper National Park, Canada.

Bull Elk bugling, Jasper National Park, Canada.

Hey Folks,

I had another photo request for free use of my images today; they come in pretty regularly, it seems, particularly for wildlife and landscape photography. We nature lovers obviously love what we do, and so must have a desire to give our work away for free. How can we not?

I’ll be the first to admit it folks; these are tough times, for buyers and sellers alike. There’s no denying that truth. I thought I’d try to find some kind of compromise here. I always like to develop a relationship with someone who may potentially pay for my work, and I also wanted to help these people out – theirs is a just and worthwhile cause. And hey, maybe helping these folks out might provide the impetus for some real economic activity in the world? I hoped to do my bit to help the economy get rolling, my own little stimulus plan, if you will (I still can’t believe the government got away with labeling theirs a ‘stimulus package‘). At the same time, I didn’t really want to give away my work for free. What to do?

I tried to explain to the person on the phone; I listened closely, and sympathized – “yes, I realize you’re a non-profit organization, but  my business, on the other hand, is NOT a non-profit“. This didn’t clarify things, apparently.

A different tact:  “Well, you see, my rent doesn’t go down according to the charity work that your business does, and the food I eat doesn’t become free simply because I did a good deed for the day“. We got nowhere. Continue reading

The Baker River and Bob Marley

Waterfalls, Baker River, Rio Baker, Patagonia, Chile.

Waterfalls, Baker River, Rio Baker, Patagonia, Chile. Click the thumbnail to see a larger version.

Hey Folks

“How many rivers do we have to cross, Before we can talk to the boss, eh?” – Bob Marley, “Burnin and Lootin'”.

Today, Feb 6th, 2010, is the 65th anniversary of Bob Marley’s birthday. Bob is one of my highest musical heroes, and this tune, of all his great songs, is probably the one that I love the most. So, in honor of the great Bob Marley, here’s a version of his classic ‘Redemption Song‘ that I recorded a few years back with my friend Steve on vocals.


I thought this photo would be a fitting accompaniment. This photo is of the waterfall on the Baker River, beginning of a series of Class 5 and Class 6 rapids through an unbelievable canyon. Continue reading

Is Facebook the online version of Walmart?

A beaver (Castor canadensis) hauling willow back to his lodge, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Beaver, (Castor canadensis), hauling willow back to his lodge for the winter, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

You undoubtedly heard the news; today’s bling is Social Networking. You need to be on Facebook and you need to Tweet (loud and often). You need people to Digg your Flickrworld, you need to be Linked In, Hooked Up and Decked Out. You need to do this because you can’t afford not to, because everyone else is doing it, and because if you want to get ahead in life, to succeed, you need to do what everyone else is doing. Right?

It’s true, so I jumped right in. In the last few months I’ve opened the pages of Facebook and Tweeted my first Tweet, and just this week started a Flickr photo account. Additionally, my guiding business, Expeditions Alaska, is now Linked In. Social networking, I’ve been instructed, is the key to my future success and now, after wrapping up a summer of hiking and backpacking in the mountains, I’m giving it a shot.

It’s an interesting and somewhat challenging process. You don’t need me to write about the ways in which successful folks engage this ‘social networking’, as this has been covered elsewhere far more effectively than I might manage. The topic here is the pervasive, engulfing nature of such sites as Twitter and Facebook, etc. According to their stats page Facebook has more than 300 million active users (irony of the term ‘users’ duly noted). Continue reading

Environmental Discourse – a rant.

Trash bottles and construction equipment on construction site, Marietta, Atlanta, Georgia

Trash bottles and construction equipment on construction site, Marietta, Atlanta, Georgia

Hey Folks,

A word (or rant) about ‘pragmatists’.

How often do we hear people cloak their position in this language, smother their position and use the veil of ‘realism’ as a cover for rationale? The phrase “well, sure, that’s too bad, but we need to be pragmatic .. “ is so often merely an attempt to preserve the status quo. Rather than reach a little further, push a little harder, get a little creative, or honestly examine ourselves and the lives we lead, we fall back on language like “realistic” and “pragmatic” – neither of which solve a problem, and, ironically, express a position often seated on neither pragmatism or realism.

Conversations around environmental issues seem to invoke this veil all too often; “we’d love to leave the caribou alone, and let them roam on the coastal plain, but we need to be practical – realistically, we need oil.” An entire platform was built around this excuse for an unwillingness to change that supporters labelled “Wise Use” – it’s nonsense. Continue reading

Mt. Blackburn and John Muir

Mt. Blackburn in alpenglow, early fall, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
Mt. Blackburn stands tall to catch the sun’s first rays of alpenglow, high above the Kennicott Valley, early fall, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

I just visited my friend Mark Graf’s great blog, and read with interest his commentary on mountains and the import and grandeur of nature, the role it can play in our lives. Mark prefaces his post with the legendary John Muir, so I’ll do the same:

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail. – John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901”

While I think it’s a fantastic photo Mark posted, and a great post, (I’d ask that you read it and the comments that follow) I have to be the lone opponent in the discussion here;  Continue reading

Orcas Killing Sea Otters

Orca attacking a sea otter pup in Kasitsna Bay, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s an interesting thought; there’s been a lot of discussion in Alaska on wolf and other wildlife management, particularly ‘predator management’ (aren’t ALL animals not predators of some creatures, and prey of others?), and this raises the issue of orcas (Orcinus orca) and northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni). In more recent times, for various reasons, it appears that orcas have begun preying more heavily on northern sea otters in the Southwestern part of the otters’ range – South Central Alaska out across the Aleutian Islands. Orcas, “Wolves of the Sea”, appear to be extirpating the sea otter within this Distinct Population Segment (DPS), and this sea otter DPS is now listed as threatened on the Endangered Species Act. So, what of it? Should the ‘wildlife authorities’ fire up the choppers, Cessnas and Supercubs, hire a sniper or 2, and begin an aerial ‘predator control’ program? Continue reading

Nikon Capture NX2 and Adobe CS4.

A grizzly bear walking towards the camera, Katmai national park, Alaska.

Photo above extracted via Nikon Capture NX2.2.2 Continue reading