We don’t know — Arctic methane says so

We don’t know how long we have.  The more we heat up the planet, the more we reach “tipping points,” where “positive feedback loops” that we set in motion become Earth’s way of consuming itself.  Our models for predicting effects of human-caused climate change do not — cannot — take into account the potential for the feedback loops running out of control, beyond reach of any mitigating efforts we may make.

So, what, then?

We have to simply stop feeding carbon into the air.  Just stop, in every way we can, as much as possible, everywhere, and punish those who resist.  They don’t call it “an existential threat” for nothing.  Why treat it as less?

Lesser efforts, lesser objectives, raise the risk beyond our ability to measure, as shown below in the new PBS Nova episode, “Arctic Sinkholes.”

As the authors explain, the craters look like sinkholes to the naked eye, but they are not sinkholes.  They are massive, explosive and incessant methane leaks from the arctic permafrost.

The rate of increase in the arctic temperature is twice that of the planetary average.  The permafrost — ground frozen continuously for at least two years, but also thousands of feet deep for millennia — is thawing, and opening big methane vents at alarming rates.

We don’t know how many there are, or will be.  We don’t know their ultimate effect.  We don’t know if our feeble efforts to stop killing our planet can begin to take into account the effects of thawing permafrost.

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Historic Public Lands Legislation

This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Renew the EXPIRED Land and Water Conservation Fund #SaveLWCF of .

Congress passed a Public Lands Package (S.47) in nearly unanimous bipartisan fashion.

Source: Historic Public Lands Legislation About to Become Law – American Hiking Society

Every so often Congress overcomes its partisan battles and joins together to enact critical legislation. Today is one of those days! Congress just passed a Public Lands Package (S.47) in nearly unanimous bipartisan fashion (92-8 in the Senate and 363-62 in the House of Representatives). The legislation is far-reaching in scope (read it all here). Among the many provisions it creates new National Monuments honoring civil rights icons and Civil War heroes, provides over 1.3 million acres of new wilderness designations, and prohibits mining near two National Parks. Highlighted below are some of the key provisions for hikers and public land lovers.

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Put a Woman in Charge (revised)

WordPress clobbered the previous post when I tried to add this note to the  reblog of Put a Woman in Charge written, illustrated and originally posted by Lisa Brunetti at Zeebra Designs & Destinations~ An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest, online home of an artist, naturalist and writer in Ecuador with a global heart, whose blog I would keep following if I could keep only one, for its beautiful offerings in education (in art and more), entertainment, and inspiration.  I wrote more extensively about Lisa in my May 27, 2017 post Nature Writers I Follow #1:Zeebra.

I should know better than use the reblog button instead of just reporting on the piece myself.  So just go to  Put a Woman in Charge and take the time to read all of it and enjoy the heart and the art of it.

Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018. It’s not Kansas anywhere anymore, Toto.

Sing along: Somewhere over the rainbow oceans rise …

“The figures suggested there is no clear end in sight to the growth of humanity’s contribution to climate change.”Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.”

Source: ‘We are in trouble.’ Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018. – The Washington Post

Note from this blogger:  Climate science deniers needing medical treatment for your children please see your neighborhood priest or faith healer, who can also advise you on global climate matters, nutritional supplements, and social media propaganda tactics.

Renew the EXPIRED Land and Water Conservation Fund #SaveLWCF

I feel so stupid about this.

I’ve got to pay more careful attention to what goes on in environmental policy and legislation, so I can act on them BEFORE they get ripped up and the funding given to buying more tanks and bombs.  How many people you know will have known about this before Election Day (among those pitiful few who vote)?

Since the national Land and Water Conservation Fund expired on September 30, 2018, this is the moment-by-moment ticker of funding lost to environmental programs all over the USA (this is a static picture of it, not the real ticker):

You can see the real ticker in action on the website of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Coalition.  Here is what their page says:

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is [was] America’s most important program to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation.

America’s most important conservation and recreation program, which has saved places in every state and nearly every county in the U.S., expired on September 30, 2018.

The time for action is now.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is [was] in its 53rd year of conservation and recreation success. It is because of Teddy Roosevelt’s vision to start protecting our recreational opportunities, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s instinct for conservation action, John F. Kennedy’s commitment to the outdoors, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s creation of LWCF that we as Americans now have the most extensive network of open spaces in the world to hunt, fish, hike, swim, and play.

In order to build momentum towards finding a long-term solution for authorization and funding, the LWCF Coalition launched a year-long awareness initiative counting down to the expiration of our most important conservation and recreation program.

Over the past year leading up to expiration, each week a state or U.S. territory was highlighted showcasing LWCF success stories from the federal, state, and local level, and opportunities that are on the horizon for LWCF to improve recreational access and conservation across America, and places that could be lost forever if Congress does not act by September 30, 2018.  [The state-by-state info in on the web page.]

#SaveLWCF before the places we love are lost forever

[You know the drill.  Call your people in Congress.  Even if they are not “our” people, sometimes they will act like it, instead of acting like they are attacking the USA and everything it stands for.]

Nature Writers I Follow #1: Lisa Brunetti, a Multi-Disciplinary Artist in Ecuador

There are times when I enjoy an eye-to-eye inspection of those exotic plants, and by capturing their likeness with pencil or water media, I discover minute details that otherwise might be missed. I always walk away with deeper respect for the plant and its support cast of companions. – Lisa Brunetti, Zeebra Designs & Destinations

She says she does it with graphic media.  Others do it with cameras or words or other forms of contemplation or meditation.  It’s about attention and intention, and it yields a clearer sense, if only a glimpse at a time, of the true nature of things, their union with each other and ours with it all, and with each other.  Lisa Brunetti expresses that sense in “pencil or water” media, and in words, and in photography.

In this series of posts (Nature Writers I Follow), I will salute (and recommend) some of the blogs I follow that inspire, inform or entertain my biophilic sensibility with their nature writing and related art.  Truly, it is not the blogs I follow, but their writers.  I appreciate these people for their awakening and supporting rational regard for humanity’s role in the natural order; i.e., part of it, not separate from it; in it, not above it.

I am amazed at how these obviously busy people I admire make time to write for us, share their art with us, and do it so well, free.  Maybe it’s like the old saying goes: if you want to get something done, ask the busiest person.  My lifestyle is too slow to get much done.

Challenged to choose the order of blogs to present here (who goes first?),  I’m going with reverse alphabetical order.

That puts Zeebra Designs & Destinations at the top of the list, and today’s … um … “victim” of my attention: professional artist, author, naturalist and (in my view) philosopher Lisa Brunetti, resident adoptive sister to the soul of Ecuador.  I’m just one of about 2,400 followers of her blog, no doubt from every curve of the earth (whoever came up with the idea of “corners of the earth?”).

British soldiers in Balsamea woods!

While browsing Rebecca in the Woods, the blog of a naturalist and environmental educator, I bumped into her photo of a lichen she found on a tree stump in Ohio.

We have an item that looks like the same thing, carpeting a couple of big old tree stumps in the place we call Five Stump Skypatch (a forest opening about 100’x30′ where loggers took out five big trees a long time ago).

I believe this is the only patch of this stuff that we have at Balsamea. It has cousins in other small openings here, but this is the only one with the red lipstick.  (Post-post update: this is not the only patch.  There are a few more.)

As with many other flora and fauna rattling my ignorance, I do not recall ever seeing it anywhere but Balsamea.  Not surprisingly, authorities say it is common throughout northeastern United States and Canada, with 128 cousins here and in other regions around the world.

These are my photos on May 12, 2012:

About a half square foot area on the edge of the big tree stump

About a half square foot area on the edge of the big tree stump

Cladonia cristatella, a.k.a. British Soldier Lichen, one of a variety of Cup Lichens.

Cladonia cristatella, a.k.a. British Soldier Lichen, one of a variety of Cup Lichens.

This other-worldly looking red-capped Balsamean is Cladonia cristatella, with the common name British Soldier lichen.

A lichen (LIE-ken) is a mutualistic, symbiotic merge of a fungus (plural fungi) and either an alga (plural algae) or a cyanobacterium (plural cyanobacteria) — the kind of bacterium that does photosynthesis. In this case (plural cases), it is an alga.

Lichens are sensitive to air pollution, so their strong presence indicates clean air in the environment. We knew about the clean air here at Balsamea, but it is nice to see it officially declared by nature itself, as we have several kinds of lichen (lichens).

Reindeer, caribou and possibly (according to one source) Whitetail Deer eat Cladonia cristatella when other food is scarce. At Balsamea, we have surplus Whitetails. If they eat Cladonia cristatella, maybe it is only as a last resort, or else our small Cladonia patch could well be gone. Maybe they only use it for medicinal purposes?

We have no wild reindeer or caribou in the Adirondacks. But some tame reindeer are professionally employed nearby at Santa’s Workshop at North Pole (Wilmington, NY), twenty miles from Balsamea.

In multiple places, I read that a lichen (Lecanora esculenta) is likely the manna collected (as food fallen from heaven) by the Jews during their wilderness journey from Egypt to Palestine.  This kind of lichen is known to dry out and blow from the mountains to the desert in great quantities, enough to collect in layers or piles.  The Collaborative International Dictionary of English defines manna lichen at length in scientific terms and as food.  Varieties of manna lichens are still traditional food sources in the region.

To the Jews, at that time in their experience and in the known science of the time, it was food from heaven.  Now we know it didn’t come from heaven, but from lichen.  That’s good.

Science is also at work exploring things in lichens that could advance understanding of human aging, according to Melissa Harding’s article, The Fungus Among Us for the Phipps Science Education and Research blog of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.  Excerpt:

Dr. [Anne] Pringle’s preliminary results show that as a lichen grows older and larger, it is less likely to die. The definition of aging changes from organism to organism. Death, as we know it now, is animal-centered. The rules for fungi, as well as the subjects of similar studies like the bristlecone pine and the wandering albatross, are something different.

To learn more about lichen and Dr. Pringle’s research, check out this article by Hillary Rosner in the New York Times.

Dr. Pringle studies aging in fungi and lichens at a place known for aging, of a sort: a cemetery.

As ever, in nature’s system of getting things done, nothing goes to waste.  Along with presenting a mesmerizing video of starlings, a post by Dear Kitty reports, “Ecologist Peter Bremer discovered [that] … common orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina) benefits from … bird droppings.”

So, it pays to take a while and really look at what is going on in the woods.  These British soldiers are special in many ways.  They are not just colorful pretty faces on fantastic bodies.  They are air quality indicators.  They have complex personalities (mutualistic, symbiotic integration of fungi and algae).  They are food for reindeer, caribou and Whitetail deer, which of course is no surprise, since they have distant cousins who are food for people lost in a desert.  They grow less likely to die as they age, and they really take their time about it (a couple of millimeters per year).  And they have relatives in the bird poop recycling business.  These could be important Balsameans to know.  Really tiny ones, but ones with a lot to say for themselves.

After scouring through many websites for reference information about lichens and the Cladonia family, I settled on the ones below to bookmark and pass along to you. There are 128 lichens just in the Cladonia family, and thousands in all lichen families.  So get busy likin’ the lichens.  (I just had to do that.)

Special thanks to Rebecca in the Woods, who addresses the lichen topic several times in pictures and text (plural texts).

Authoritative information sources to enjoy:

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