Who To Believe? - part one

One would think, with the advances we've made as a country in science, it wouldn't be hard to find the truth about something as simple as 'global warming'. Being at least somewhat concerned about our planet - I'm not an 'eco-emotionalist', but I love the beauty I enjoy daily and wish to see it maintained and cared for in a responsible manner - something as 'big' as global warming is at least looking into, right?

And, of course the thinking person would assume something as big as global warming would be well researched, well reported, and well, generally clear! NOT! In fact, my studies are revealing, amonst other things, a new definition for 'political science.'

You know, political science. Webster's says it means: 'the science of the principles and conduct of government.' That makes sense. However, that definition is clearly outdated, except possibly for use in acadamia.

The new definition of polical science is: 'the practice of science to achieve a politically defined scientific law'. Obviously I use the word 'law' tongue-in-cheek as no real scientific laws can be proven if based on strong pre-supposition and forced to conform to political whims. However, more and more the evidence is weighing in which proves, at least in part, this form of 'science' is being used to 'prove' global warming.

So, is it real? Global warming that is. Like so many other things the media spoon-feeds the majority of Americans today, I'd say that all depends on who you ask. If, however, you look at the scientific evidence, well, that appears to be weak at best.

The logical question follows. If, as I'm suggesting, global warming is more 'myth' than 'reality', why isn't that what we're all hearing? Anyone who watches the news, reads a magazine, or visits most news sites on the Web is hearing everything BUT this. Where are all these well-qualified scientists and climatologists and meterologists who are poo-pooing the idea? Beaten down and threatened, their voices are being squashed on every turn!

In America? Good Lord, what are we coming to? I think it all boils down to my new definition of political science. After all, what's the big deal? If global warming is a reality, why these nay-sayers? Worse yet, why are they being bad-mouthed, refused funding, and threatened - even with death for contradicting the popular opinion?

In the early stages of Hitler's Germany I can imagine someone questioning the treatment of the Jews being treated thus. But in America? In the 21st century? In a 'free' nation? Unthinkable! Maybe?

Let's look at a little proof. First the pro-side. My latest email 'news' from the National Wildlife Federation says, "The National Wildlife Federation's Gardener's Guide To Global Warming has been all over the news this month letting people know how global warming is affecting gardens across the country. The New York Times, Associated Press, and NPR have all picked it up." They go on to make such strong statements as, "By the end of the century, the climate will no longer be favorable for the official state tree or flower in 28 states." Then they tell us to, "Urge your representative to support strong global warming legislation."

Strong words. No proof, of course, but strong words. Sounds bad but to a thinking people our first thought ought to be, 'where's the proof?' That's what I'm left wondering.

Then my latest edition of The Nature Conservancy, a regular publication put out by folks whose work here in the Centennial I have admired, jumps on the band-wagon with both feet. In their article boldly titled, "An 'Unequivical' Change" they say a 'monumental new report leaves little doubt that humans have hand in climate change.' They go on to say, 'the world's leading body of climate scientists concluded in its latest assessment that climate change is 'unequivocal' and that people are more than likely to be causing the recent increases in temperature and other climate shifts. . .' (emphasis mine). At least this report offers 'proof' - of a sort.

An increase in global temperatures since 1906 of 1.3 degrees Fareneheit.

Is that all? Based on other research I've read, that is an iffy suggestion at best. But, what kills me - these prophets of doom porport the temperature has raised 1.3 degrees in the last 100 years. But they project it will rise 3 to 7 degrees in the next 94 years.

Let's look at that. We have 'proof' (there's proof to the opposite too) that the temperature has raised 1.3 degrees in the last 100 years. However, they 'project' (remember that is like saying they 'think') it will increase 2 times to more than 5 times that amount in the next 100 years. Now, without offering proof as to why this phenomenon will occur, I see that as little more than a scare tactic.

They go on to say, 'most of the observed increase in globally averaged tempertures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.' (emphasis mine) . Does anyone else see the huge 'I THINK SO' this is based on? (By the way, anthropogenic is a fancy way of saying it's caused by man)

But, that isn't all, the report goes on to lay out six scenarios that project how the Earth will continue to change based on what we do (which boils down to how much we're willing to spend on eco-credits). The doomsayers continue, 'If these emissions continue unabated during the next 100 years, the scientists project that consequences will include flooding, increased wildfires, increased heat waves, storms, and droughts.'

Wow, it sounds terrible. I must admit, if they are right there is reason to be concerned. However, they may have the podium, but they aren't the only ones in the auditorium who have the knowledge and skills to provide a valid opinion on this subject - and, let's admit it, that's all they've done.

What I find even more confusing, is the 'solution' for this whole thing. This is where the 'political' involvement becomes crystal clear. In this same edition of The Nature Conservancy magazine, there is a profile of the 'politically proper environmental scientist', one of the Nature Conservancy's own.

Mr. Patrick Gonzalez is leading the way into the brave new world - or at least the world as global warming prophets see it. He's gone 'climate neutral', living the good life without leaving a footprint behind. Or, at least in theory it works that way.

Now, don't misunderstand me. Mr. Gonzalez does not live in a cave, run around naked, and live on nothing but air - forget food and water, after all they are part of the planet which he would 'pollute' by using them. No, in fact, Mr. Gonzalez lives in a comfortable home, in the big city, eats Peanut Butter (which comes in a plastic jar by the way) and I'm sure other assorted foods, most likely drinks water as his photo shows him to be a healthy specimen, and does a bit of globe trotting.

How then, can Mr. Gonzalez consider himself to be living 'climate neutral'? Well, for starters he doesn't own a car. However, he does travel via public transport and plane. He continues to light his home with electricity. He eats food packed in environmentally harmful (or so we're told) containers. So, how does he manage to live 'climate neutral'. Well, folks, here's the wave of the future as global warming enthusiasts see it.

Mr. Gonzalez faithfully fills out a spreadsheet he has created. On a monthly basis he tracks his energy use then mutiplies 'by 2.6 - to account for the entire infastructure that supports our lifestyle - to get our total greenhouse gas emissions.' Then he purchases carbon offsets from a company that builds windmills and methane recovery plants. And, he always washes the peanut butter jar and recycles it!

Wow! That sounds impressive. But what exactly is he doing for the environment (outside of recycling and using public transportation)? His lifestyle sure seems a long way from what I'd consider 'climate neutral'. But, as you can see, 'climate neutral' really consists in what you buy - in this case, eco-credits or as our prototype called them, carbon offsets. And, this does what? Well, as I will go on to show - next time - it pads some already well-padded pockets for one.

(Don't you wish you built windmills? Maybe we should all switch. Then we can look forward to having everyone send us a nice monthly check to off-set their 'greenhouse gas emissions'.)

Lady of the Lake


The Hard Push

It's that time of year - time when we're constantly thinking of the upcoming season. Of course, we're thinking about our guests. We're thinking about the fun (and work). We're thinking about friends we will soon see. We're thinking about a LOT of things - but mostly, at this late date, we're thinking about how we're going to get everything done in time.

What that boils down to is a lot of long days and short nights. But, we're starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of this long tunnel. And, although we hit the bed tired every night, we're also pleased to see our projects coming together.

But, the highlight of the last two weeks (yeah, I know, I've failed to update this thing for two weeks. However, it isn't my fault! If they'd only advance our computer technology so I could just 'think' it in, it would have been on time.) was an ATV ride we took the other day. No, we didn't have time. But, it was fun - and we saw a TON of wildlife. It was definitely a nice breather.

Oh, and did I mention we saw a TON of wildlife? Lots of moose, over a hundred antelope, two fox, one badger, a large variety of birds including numerous sandhill cranes, and oodles of elk. To borrow a new phrase (to me), "The hills were lousy with elk." It was absolute the best elk viewing I've ever enjoyed, hands down. Never, even in the Park, have I seen so many elk. It seemed like every hill had a half-dozen or more.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I appreciate having the Wildlife Refuge in my backyard. But, I must admit the elk, antelope, and moose don't seem to see it as anything special.

To listen to (and read) all the "hot air" expended by some environmental groups (or as I prefer to call them - eco-emotionalists), one would think that any kind of development is all for the worse. Any kind of 'management' is resulting in some kind of harm to mother nature. Anything but 'hands-off' and 'people-locked-out' is for the worse for all forms of nature.

However, they forgot to tell the wildlife. After driving nearly an hour through the refuge, we turned off into private and state lands. The private lands, of course, are grazed, as are the public lands. As far as I know, the private lands are also logged, on occasion, as are the state lands. However, it wasn't until we began our trek through the private and then the state lands that we began to see wildlife. And, like I mentioned above, there was a LOT to see.

So it leaves me wondering, "Just who do they think they're fooling?" Obviously not the wildlife!

Lady of the Lake


A Break From Work - A Day Of Play

After three fairly intense weeks of work on 'The Ranch House', we took a break and spent the day in YNP with our friends, Terry and Bonnie. What fun! In the past I've really focused on the animals. This time, due to Terry's and Bonnie's geological interests and background, our focus was more on Yellowstone's geothermal features.

Two books added to my deeper enjoyment of this excursion. One, "The History of Yellowstone - Vol. 1" by Aubrey L. Haines has increased my understanding of and appreciation for the early 'movers and shakers' in the Yellowstone area. Although my readings haven't even reached the formation of the area as a National Park, the sightings and journals of early visitors has added greatly to my appreciation of this unique spot in my backyard.

The other book I purchased in the Park yesterday. "Yellowstone Treasurers" by Janet Chapple was recommended by the Visitor Center Gift Shop attendent, Mary. I was looking for a book which told about the things most people never stop to see, either because they don't know they exist or because they want to see the 'important' things. Like me, many of our guests prefer the out-of-the-way, different, and off-the-beaten-path treasures. So, I thought I'd do what I could to begin educating myself on these places.

Well, apparently there isn't a book written on this specific subject. But, I suppose if there were, they would no long be 'different' and 'little-known'. However, Mary highly recommended Janet Chapple's book so I decided to check it out. Although it doesn't necessarily cover 'out-of-the-way' places, I found it added greatly to our enjoyment of the Park - if for no other reason than it told us about the 'unmarked' pull-outs and their treasures.

Of course, a day's visit doesn't begin to scratch the surface of this massive and incredibly diverse piece of terra firma. However, we explored several spots - drove many miles of road - and took a lot of pictures. Three areas we looked at in at least a degree of 'depth' were Midway Geiser Basin (between Madison and Old Faithful), Artist's Paint Pots (along the Gibbon River), and Mammouth Hot Springs (near the North Entrance).

Midway Geiser Basin sits along the road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful. This area offers views of several hot springs and some incredibly colored bacteria mats. The crowning jewel of Midway Geiser Basin is Grand Prismatic Spring. This delightfully colored spring is the third largest in the world (the only larger are in New Zealand). It measures 250' x 300' and is 160' deep. From its depths 560 gallons of 160 degree water pour into the Firehole River each hour.

The colors of the bateria mats combined with the deep blue of the spring and the rainbow colors of the steam creating a kaleidoscope of color. The ripples created by the water as it flowed across the nearby flat, and the brilliant orange-sided waterfall of steaming water pouring into the icy-cold Firehole River were added bonuses. I can't believe this was one of the spots we had driven past in our rush to get to the Upper Geyser Basin and its famous resident, Old Faithful.

After enjoying lunch and two displays put on by Old Faithful and picking up my new book in the Gift Shop, we headed back to the North in route to Mammouth Hot Springs, our next 'destination'. However, as all visitors to YNP know, between you and your next destination are many things to see - often so many it is hard to ever actually 'reach' your destination.

For me, the next highlight was another spot I had never bothered to stop and explore. Although not nearly as 'commercialized' as Midway Geiser Basin, and although certainly less spectacular in size, Artist Paint Pots was a little gem my new book suggested was worth the stop. So we did.

The short 1/3 mile hike delivered us to yet another area with steaming springs and flowing hot water. Our eyes were drawn to the small murky blue colored pools, the dancing green ribbons swaying in the warm stream, and the little (2 - 3 inches in diameter) bubbling 'puddles' of hot water. But, the best was saved for those willing to brave the mud and climb the hill for the view from above.

Again, the colors took the show. The combinations of red, orange, blue, and green, blended with the more 'earthy' colors to create a palette of color which delighted our eyes. And, we found ourselves fascinated with the weaving, slender fingers of green waving gently in the warm stream.

Our final 'treat' of the day - Mammouth Hot Springs. Now, I have to admit the last time I visited Mammouth, I was greatly disappointed. In fact, were it not for our friends' desire to see the famous site, I would have been glad to head in another direction. However, with my little book in hand and with a bit more walking, I came to appreciate - no, I really enjoyed - this unique hot spring.

Again, color took top ratings, but this time the unique shapes created by the calcium carbonate forced to the surface by the emerging water definitely competed for first place honors.

The reason for my disillusionment with the area lay in The Main Terrace. I had memories of it in the early 80's when it glistened and flowed - a sight to delight even the most spavined eye. However, I learned from my book that the calcium carbonate has a nasty habit of plugging holes. That along with underground changes stopped the flow to The Main Terrace in the 1990's. So, when I visited two years ago the whole thing seemed anti-climatic.

However, with a little extra walking we found a delightful spring - Canary Hot Springs - which sparkled and winked as it worked its colorful way from one terrace to the next, through the trees, and down the hill. Best of all, the walkways were built in such a way that we could experience the terracing effect of the calcium carbonate and the hot water and the colors of the bacterias which feed in the hot water from several different angles.

All in all, although we have work up to our eyeballs (I know, what's new), this trip was a rare delight. In fact, I am hopeful we will get two or three more days in Yellowstone before our summer season officially begins.

In closing I find myself echoing the words of that famous trapper, Russell Osbourn. After some time spent in Yellowstone, before it was a National Park, he penned the following:

"For my own part I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor."

Lady of the Lake