William Henry Jackson’s history-making photos — The High Country News

The Georgetown Loop in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado, by William Henry Jackson. Photo via Colletors Weekly.
The Georgetown Loop in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado, by William Henry Jackson. Photo via Colletors Weekly.

From The High Country News (Lyndsey Gilpin):

On U.S. Geological Survey expeditions through the American West in the 1870s, William Henry Jackson took the first photographs of the Yellowstone region’s thermal springs, craters and geysers. Those images helped persuade Congress to protect Yellowstone as a national park — America’s first — in 1872. Jackson also took early pictures of Yosemite in California and Wyoming’s Devils Tower, and was the first to photograph the ancient cliff dwellings at Colorado’s Mesa Verde, decades before it became a national park. Long before color film was available, he used the photochromic process to colorize black-and-white photos, which he sold as postcards. To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th birthday this month and Jackson’s role in its history, his rare photographs will be displayed at the FAD Gallery in Mancos, Colorado, until the end of September. The exhibit showcases 10 original black-and-white postcards of Mesa Verde and over a dozen vivid color photos of other Western landmarks.

William Henry Jackson Photos, Exhibit of rare, original photochromes and cabinet cards at FAD (Furniture, Art & Design) Gallery, 107 Grand Ave., Mancos, CO.

#ClimateChange: The Anthropocene epoch could inaugurate even more marvellous eras of evolution — The Guardian

Another pool of melt water over sea ice, as seen from an Operation IceBridge flight over the Beaufort Sea on July 14, 2016. Scientists have found that formation of melt ponds early in the summer reduces the ability of sea ice to reflect solar radiation, which leads to more melt. Credit: NASA/Operation IceBridge.
Another pool of melt water over sea ice, as seen from an Operation IceBridge flight over the Beaufort Sea on July 14, 2016. Scientists have found that formation of melt ponds early in the summer reduces the ability of sea ice to reflect solar radiation, which leads to more melt. Credit: NASA/Operation IceBridge.

From The Guardian (Martin Rees):

The darkest prognosis is that bio, cyber or environmental catastrophes could foreclose humanity’s potential. But there is an optimistic option.

…suppose some aliens had been viewing our planet for its entire 4.5bn-year history. What would they have seen?

Over nearly all that immense time, changes would have been very gradual: continents drifted; the ice cover waxed and waned; successive species emerged, evolved and became extinct during a succession of geological eras.

But visible change has accelerated rapidly in the past few thousand years – a tiny sliver of the Earth’s history. Now geologists have decided those changes have been so profound, so global and so permanent that our catalogue of the Earth’s history needs to change accordingly. Since the last ice age, around 11,000 years ago, human civilisation has flourished in the climatically benign Holocene. Now they believe that epoch has come to an end and we have entered a new human-influenced age, the Anthropocene.

The changes that our aliens could observe from space are not hard to spot. In just the last few thousand years, the patterns of vegetation altered much faster than before. These human-induced changes signalled the start of agriculture.

And human activity manifested itself in other ways that will leave traces in the geological record. Constructs of concrete and metal sprawled across the continents; domesticated vertebrates numerically overwhelmed wild ones; the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose anomalously fast; traces appeared of plutonium and other “un-natural” substances.

The imaginary aliens watching our world would have noticed something else unprecedented in geological history. Rockets launched from the planet’s surface escaped the biosphere completely. Some were propelled into orbits around the Earth; some journeyed to the moon and planets.

What do these trends portend? Should we be optimistic or anxious? It’s surprising how little we can confidently predict – indeed, we can’t predict as far ahead as our forebears could. Our medieval ancestors thought the Earth was only a few thousand years old, and might only last another thousand. But they didn’t expect their children’s lives to be very different from theirs. They built cathedrals that wouldn’t be finished in their lifetime.

Our time horizons, both past and future, now stretch billions of years, not just thousands. The sun will keep shining for about another 6bn years. But ironically we can’t forecast terrestrial trends with as much confidence as our ancestors could. Their lives and environment changed slowly from generation to generation. For us, technological change is so fast that scenarios quickly enter the realm of wild conjecture and science fiction.

But some things we can predict, at least a few decades ahead. By mid-century, the world will be more crowded, and our collective footprint will be heavier. World population is now 7.2 billion and is forecast to rise to around 9 billion by 2050. Experts predict continuing urbanisation – and huge growth of megacities such as Lagos, São Paulo and Delhi. Population trends later this century depend largely on what happens in Africa, where some UN predictions foresee a further doubling between 2050 and 2100.

Moreover, if humanity’s collective impact on nature pushes too hard against what Johan Rockstrom calls “planetary boundaries”, the resultant “ecological shock” could irreversibly degrade our biosphere. And if global warming reaches a tipping point that triggers melting of Greenland’s ice, coastlines a millennium hence would be drastically different. Extinction rates are rising. We’ve only identified about two million of the (estimated) 10 billion living species: we’re destroying the book of life before we’ve read it. To quote the great ecologist EO Wilson, “mass extinction is the sin that future generations will least forgive us for”.

The darkest prognosis for the next millennium is that bio, cyber or environmental catastrophes could foreclose humanity’s immense potential, leaving a depleted biosphere. Darwinian selection would resume, perhaps leading, in some far-future geological era, to the re-emergence of intelligent beings. If this happens, or if there are aliens out there who actually visit and study the Earth, then, digging through the geological record (and applying archaeological techniques as well) they would uncover traces of a distinctive transient epoch, and ponder the all-too-brief flourishing of a species that failed in its stewardship of “spaceship Earth”.

But there is an optimistic option.

Human societies could navigate these threats, achieve a sustainable future, and inaugurate eras of post-human evolution even more marvellous than what’s led to us. The dawn of the Anthropocene epoch would then mark a one-off transformation from a natural world to one where humans jumpstart the transition to electronic (and potentially immortal) entities, that transcend our limitations and eventually spread their influence far beyond the Earth.

Even in a cosmic time-perspective, therefore, the 21st century is special. It marks our collective realisation that the Anthropocene has begun – and it’s a century when human actions will determine how long that epoch lasts.

From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference [December 2015] in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)
From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference [December 2015] in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)

Good luck Chris Woodka — no one can replace your work on the water beat

Chris Woodka photo via The High Country News
Chris Woodka photo via The High Country News

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Chris Woodka, a longtime editor and reporter at The Pueblo Chieftain, recently accepted the position of issues management program coordinator for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, effective Sept. 12. He will work with the district and Bureau of Reclamation on the Arkansas Valley Conduit and other projects.

Woodka, 61, has worked at The Chieftain since 1985. For the past 12 years, he has been on special assignment as a water reporter, as well as filling various relief roles for other editors and reporters. Over the years, he has received numerous awards from newspaper associations and various community groups.

Woodka will continue to write Monday Morning Special, which appears weekly in The Chieftain’s Life section.

Click here to read the Coyote Gulch post about Chris from Matt Jenkins writing in The High Country News: From the post:

…Woodka, 57, is Colorado’s sole remaining full-time water reporter. He has worked hard to separate himself from the Chieftain’s editorial slant, and has built a reputation for his fair coverage of an extremely complicated and contentious subject. “You kind of make your own luck,” Woodka says. “Your sources have to be good, and you don’t burn them.”

Steve Henson, the Chieftain’s current managing editor, serves as a deliberate editorial firewall between Woodka and the publisher’s suite. “I kind of make my own assignments,” Woodka says. “Steve will let me know the publisher’s concern, and what the publisher would like to see in the story.”

“But,” he adds, “that’s not always the story that he gets.”

Click here to view all the Coyote Gulch posts with Chris in the text and click here for posts from the old blog — 2003 to February 2009.

Historic McElmo flume awarded final funding — The Cortez Journal

McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal
McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

A recently constructed interpretive pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez showcases the wooden irrigation flume, which was built in the 1890s to deliver water to the Ute Mountain tribe and pioneer farms.

The restoration grant requires a $60,000 match, and a fundraising effort is underway. Once that is raised, the flume’s main wooden trough structure will be repaired and restored, completing the multiyear project.

“Right now, people will stop at the interpretive pull-off and see that the flume needs repair, and that is what this grant will be paying for,” Towle said, adding that as much original wood as possible will be used in the restoration.

Repairing the foundation was the priority. In 2014, a $123,000 state historical grant was awarded to the county to rebuild the foundation and stabilize the structure to withstand flows in McElmo Creek. That foundation work was completed in February.

The paved highway pullout, parking lot, interpretive panels, information, kiosk, sidewalk and flume overlook were made possible by $250,000 in funding allocated by the National Scenic Byways Program in 2013.

The historic flume is an agricultural artifact that symbolizes the beginning of the city of Cortez and surrounding communities, Towle said.

“Cortez would not be here without these first irrigation systems,” she said. “It is important for visitors coming through to learn the story about how the efforts of early farmers and ranchers grew the town and got us to where we are today.”

Final interpretive panels on water history are still being created for the flume overlook. Also a regional tourism map will be installed at the kiosk highlighting local attractions.

Throughout the project, contributions have been made by many agencies and organizations, including Montezuma County, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Southwest Roundtable, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company, Dolores Water Conservancy District, and the Ute Mountain Tribe. The Colorado State Historical grants awarded for the project are derived from a portion of gambling revenues in Cripple Creek, Central City, and Black Hawk.

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper eyes executive order on climate change

Summit County Citizens Voice

Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming? Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?

Draft document highlights global warming threats to state

Staff Report

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says a “shifting climate” threatens many of the state’s vital industries, including skiing and agriculture, and he wants the state’s power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next 15 years from 2012 levels. The goals are outlined in a draft version of an executive order on mitigating and adapting to climate change, which spells out some specific threats of global warming that are already well-known, including:

  • Greater air pollution will lead to a more hospital admissions and increased cases of respiratory illness;
  • Changes in precipitation can adversely impact the amount and quality of Colorado’s water resources;
  • Changes in runoff patterns, intense precipitation, and rising temperatures can negatively affect food production and result in greater risk of food contamination and waterborne illness.

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Rocky Mountain Energy Summit examines intersecting industry issues — @DurangoHerald

Despite ups and downs from year to year, global average surface temperature is rising. By the beginning of the 21st century, Earth’s temperature was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term (1951–1980) average. (NASA figure adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The timing of the three-day summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver was appropriate, given two proposals that could be approved or rejected for the November ballot as early as next week.

One proposal would allow local governments to overstep the state’s regulatory authority to enact stringent rules, including bans on fracking.

The second proposal would increase setbacks of wells from schools, hospitals and homes from 500 feet to 2,500 feet.

The industry has said that effort would put 95 percent of land in the top five oil-and-gas-producing counties in Colorado off limits. La Plata County would become almost completely barred from development, as 99.6 percent of land would be prohibited.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, supports fracking, and he has concerns with the two ballot proposals. In 2014, he struck a deal that kept initiatives off the ballot. The compromise was that a task force would meet to address the local control issue.

But the task force largely fell short in the eyes of industry opponents. The rule that came out of it requires operators to consult and register with local governments when building large facilities. But it did nothing to extend powers to local governments.

The Colorado Supreme Court in May ruled that state power trumps local rules and regulations, which has caused some local governments – including Boulder County – to re-examine moratoriums on oil and gas development.

But with groups continuing to push ballot proposals, the issue has so far not gone away.

Hickenlooper believes education and stakeholder processes have quelled some concerns. He doubts proponents will make the ballot this year, as groups submitted about 100,000 signatures per proposal to the secretary of state’s office. It takes 98,492 valid signatures to make the ballot, so there’s not much of a cushion.

“People get so swept up in the emotion of the moment and carried away by some image, or a fact, that turns out not to be a fact,” Hickenlooper said while speaking during a panel discussion at the summit. “What we should spend a lot of time trying to do is make sure the right information is out there…

Federal regulations and politics
Even if the state enacts its own standards, much of the burden falls on federal regulators, which has tied into elections and politics.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce floated a report at the energy summit that stated that a ban on energy production on federal lands would cost Colorado 50,000 jobs, $124 million in annual royalties and $8.3 billion in gross domestic product.

Former Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders forced Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party further to the left on the oil and gas issue, moving them closer to a “keep it in the ground” platform.

The Clinton campaign says it is not pushing for a ban, just that “our long-term goal should be no extraction of fossil fuels on public lands.”

Proposals include reforms to fossil fuel leasing, a continued review of the federal coal program, prohibitions on development in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, raising royalty rates and ensuring that new leasing accounts for the clean energy market.

In Colorado, the business world is concerned about the transition…

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat who is running for re-election this year, took a more middle-of-the-road approach.

“Colorado truly is a state that can embrace all energy sources …” Bennet said. “Colorado is particularly well positioned to have these markets because of industry-led efforts to protect Colorado’s air and water.”

@PNS_News: Solar Could Employ Laid Off Coal Workers, Study Finds #keepitintheground #climatechange

Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best
Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

From Pixabay via The Public News Service:

The growth of solar and wind energy related jobs could easily absorb coal industry layoffs over the next 15 years and provide full-time careers, if investments are made to retrain workers, according to a new study by researchers at the Oregon State University and the Michigan Technological University.

Edward Louie, the report’s co-author, says between solar and wind, Utah is in a good position to become more energy independent and a leading exporter of renewable power.

“To transport the wind blades, to install the wind turbines – and then also all the jobs it would take to upgrade the transmission lines to handle that high percent of renewables – then there’s more than enough positions,” he explains.

Louie notes coal jobs have become increasingly at risk because of falling natural gas prices and new Environmental Protection Agency rules targeting coal-fired power plants to limit climate pollution.

He says if the U.S. goes completely renewable, nearly 1,400 Utah workers – and 75,000 nationally – will need to find new jobs.

The solar industry already employs more than 200,000 people and is creating jobs 12 times faster than the overall economy, according to the study, which also determined closest equivalent solar positions and salaries.

Louie says a coal operations engineer, for example, could retrain to be a manufacturing technician in solar and expect about a 10 percent salary increase.

“Obviously there are some jobs that are very specific to coal mining, and those workers will probably need some retraining to find a job in the renewable energy industry,” he says.

The study also found that a coal CEO’s annual salary would be more than enough to retrain every company employee for a job in renewables.

Louie adds other possible funding sources include federal and state dollars, and he says coal workers also could choose to pay for training themselves.