Summer Hike #1 – Grayrock Trail

When I was about 5 years old, I had to explain to my 80-year-old great-grandmother how a tape recorder worked. She asked me lots of questions, and I patiently explained all the buttons. I’m sure she was humoring me, but I felt so surprised that someone so old wouldn’t know how something works. “She grew up in the horse and buggy days,” my mom told me when I asked her about it, “Imagine how much change she’s seen in her lifetime!”

I remember thinking that it must have been really hard for her to keep up – given how fast things were moving. I felt lucky to have been born after such big technological revolutions as tape recorders and televisions. I wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping up. (Ha.)

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Pasque flowers on the trail to Gray Rock.

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Planes, trains and … well, it’s really all about the bicycles

A little story in honor of an old friend…

This place is called Inch. It’s a long white strand of sand, bordered on one side by a wide strip of tall grass, and other other, by the wild Atlantic. When we arrive, the ocean is discharging a fury that grew over a thousand blue miles of wind and waves. The beach is completely deserted. We are tired from cycling into the damp wind, but exhilarated by the ride. We lock our bikes to a chainlink fence and knock on the door of the dilapidated, rusty trailer home at the edge of the beach. There are a few other farm homes scattered down the road, but it’s not really a beach day, and there’s no one in sight.

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Beach at Inch along the Dingle Peninsula – much more populated than I remember it. My own photos are much too faded to share here. [Photo by Pedelecs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

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Finding Gratitude in a Demon-Haunted World

Carl Sagan wrote about the importance of understanding science (the habit of rational thought) in preserving our democracy, and said that “if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along” (from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996).

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I was hoping for a photo here that would appear a bit scarier…But maybe these clownish jack-o-lanterns are perfectly appropriate.

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Cuenca’s Gringolandia: A place to escape Trumpamerica? (Or whatever America you want to escape)

Will it be Canada or Cuenca? I have to admit, this is a post I’ve been working on since shortly after I arrived in Ecuador – more than a year and a half ago – well before Trump announced his intentions. But I figured this was a good time to publish this. US citizens have been on a roller coaster ride this fall, and spate of nervous jokes (on both sides of the political spectrum) about fleeing the country if Trump became president has not abated. (And I know there are some out there who will flee a Clinton presidency.) So, would it be Canada or Cuenca? I’m not going to say much about Canada – although, I do realize it’s hard to resist a country run by a prime minister who cuddles panda bears.

This post is about what life is like for North Americans who have already fled to Ecuador. If you arrived at this page because you’re considering retiring – or perhaps, fleeing – to Cuenca, maybe it’ll give you a bit of perspective about life as a North American in Ecuador.

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Typical abode for expat North Americans in the heart of Cuenca’s Gringolandia.

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Earth as 1989 Planet of the Year – We’ve come so far. Not.

(Alternative title: How I became a climate scientist). I’m back! After a long hiatus (also known as ‘spring semester’), I’m getting ready to publish a few posts that have been in the works for some time. This post, in fact, has probably been ‘in the works’ for more than 25 years.

I recently gave a talk to a group of faculty at my university. I was asked to speak about my work, but also share a bit about how I got into climate science in the first place. I started with this cover from Time Magazine – January 1989.

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The cover of Time Magazine: January 2, 1989

This was the magazine cover that changed my life. Continue reading

El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant)

My experiences in Ecuador forced me to think a lot about the intersection of culture and climate change. As a scientist, I often focus on the science, and steer away from discussion of political or social implications in my classes. But as I begin to better see the broad range of approaches and responses to changes in the environment and climate – ranging from outright denial (among supposedly educated people) that there are changes caused by humans, to complete ignorance that changes can occur – I’m getting a greater feel for the complexity of the problem, the complexity involved in addressing climate change – and it scares the hell out of me.

I love this little film that touches on cultural change in conjunction with climate change and adaptation. There is some great cinematography of the Andes in Ecuador, and it does a good job capturing a colorful culture. It’s also interesting to watch it again now that I’m home, in the midst of a Colorado winter, snow and ice right outside my door.

The Last Ice Man (with English subtitles)

There is another version without the subtitles at the movie’s homepage:

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or at:

And, because climate scientists are people too, and it’s partly this fear for the world that drives us to do what we do, I wanted to end by sharing this website which hosts handwritten letters by scientists about their thoughts on climate change: Is this how you feel?