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:

El Último Hielero

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?

Transform Black Friday into Opt-Outdoors-Day – who’s on board?

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The Poudre River in Fort Collins, the day before Thanksgiving (or, rather, the day before Black Friday craziness begins)…Also the day before snow.

A couple of weeks ago the major outdoor retail chain, REI, announced that they would close their doors for Thanksgiving AND Black Friday, pay their employees, and encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. I think this is awesome, and I applaud this move. In fact, it makes me want to do all my Christmas shopping at REI, so maybe that was the point. But how many people really care?

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Galapagos Part 3: Every shade of blue

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A juvenile sea lion awaits us on the dock of South Plaza’s Island, a small islet near the larger Isla Santa Cruz.

The Galapagos will always appear in shades of blue in my mind. While the drier island landscapes are painted in red and orange, or draped by lush, low forest canopies of green and yellow, those are simply accents against a pale blue sky, and deeper blue ocean. As the world here in the Northern Hemisphere gradually turns gold and red with autumn and a new school year is ramping up (well, ok, it’s been ramping up, and at this point, is going full speed ahead), I wanted to share one last set of Galapagos photos – shades of blue, some lush green forests, and quirky animals. Warm thoughts  and images to carry us through frigid days ahead (those of us who are winter-bound, anyway!) Continue reading

Galapagos Part 2: Bartolomé and North Seymour Islands

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The colorful volcanic landscape of Isla Bartolomé in the Galapagos. The tall spire at the other end of the bay is ‘Pinnacle Rock’.

Imagine cruising into a tiny, protected bay, where the water laps gently on the rocks. Your vision is saturated with shades of blue, from the sky and the water, and shades of red, brown, grey and purple of volcanic cinder cone – you begin to feel like you’re on another planet. This is the small islet of Bartolomé in the Galapagos.

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