The songs that beamed into living rooms during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic may have featured an artist’s hits. But there’s just something magical about seeing music surrounded by other people. Some fans reported being so moved by their first live shows in nearly two years that they wept with joy.
As a music theorist, I’ve spent my career trying to figure out just what that “magic” is. And part of understanding this requires thinking about music as more than simply sounds washing over a listener.
Music as more than communication
Music is often thought of as a twin sister to language. Whereas words tend to convey ideas and knowledge, music transmits emotions.
According to this view, performers broadcast their messages – the music – to their audience. Listeners decode the messages on the basis of their own listening habits, and that’s how they interpret the emotions the performers hope to communicate.
But if all music did was communicate emotions, watching an online concert should’ve been no different than going to a live show. After all, in both cases, listeners heard the same melodies, the same harmonies and the same rhythms.
So what couldn’t be experienced through a computer screen?
The short answer is that music does far more than communicate. When witnessed in person, with other people, it can create powerful physical and emotional bonds.
A ‘mutual tuning-in’
Without physical interactions, our well-being suffers. We fail to achieve what the philosopher Alfred Schütz called a “mutual tuning-in,” or what the pianist and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer more recently described as “being together in time.”
In my book “Enacting Musical Time,” I note that time has a certain feel and texture that goes beyond the mere fact of its passage. It can move faster or slower, of course. But it can also thrum with emotion: There are times that are somber, joyous, melancholy, exuberant and so on.
When the passage of time is experienced in the presence of others, it can give rise to a form of intimacy in which people revel or grieve together. That may be why physical distancing and social isolation imposed by the pandemic were so difficult for so many people – and why many people whose lives and routines were upended reported an unsettling change in their sense of time.
Music isn’t necessary for this synchronization to emerge, but rhythms and beats facilitate the synchronization by giving it a shape.
On the one hand, music encourages people to make specific movements and gestures while they dance or clap or just bob their heads to the beat. On the other, music gives audiences a temporal scaffold: where to place these movements and gestures so that they’re synchronized with others.
The great synchronizer
Because of the pleasurable effect of being synchronized with people around you, the emotional satisfaction you get from listening or watching online is fundamentally different from going to a live performance. At a concert, you can see and feel other bodies around you.
Even when explicit movement is restricted, like at a typical Western classical concert, you sense the presence of others, a mass of bodies that punctures your personal bubble.
The music shapes this mass of humanity, giving it structure, suggesting moments of tension and relaxation, of breath, of fluctuations in energy – moments that might translate into movement and gesture as soon as people become tuned into one another.
This structure is usually conveyed with sound, but different musical practices around the world suggest that the experience is not limited to hearing. In fact, it can include the synchronization of visuals and human touch.
For example, in the deaf musical community, sound is only one small part of the expression. In Christine Sun Kim’s “face opera ii” – a piece for prelingually deaf performers – participants “sing” without using their hands, and instead use facial gestures and movements to convey emotions. Like the line “fa-la-la-la-la” in the famous Christmas carol “Deck the Halls,” words can be deprived of their meaning until all that’s left is their emotional tone.
Not all of these practices necessarily evoke the word “music.” But we can think of them as musical in their own way. They all teach people how to act in relation to one another by teasing, guiding and even urging them to move together.
Utah is proud of its snow. The state of Utah even trademarked the phrase “The Greatest Snow on Earth™” and put it on its license plates. But climate change is a significant threat to Utah’s famous snow and ski resorts.
As part of their work in the Climate Adaptation Science program, a group of Utah State University graduate students and faculty from the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, examined historical temperature data from 1980-2019 and projected climate data for 2021-2100. In addition, they conducted interviews with Utah ski resort managers to better understand how climate change will impact winter recreation, and how ski resorts can adapt to these changes.
Historical data shows that many Utah ski resorts are warming faster than global averages, and that trend is likely to continue in the future. Around the world, scientists are seeing high elevation environments warming faster than sea level. Climate projections show that minimum temperatures are expected to rise during the prime ski season of December-March by up to 10 degrees in Northern Utah and up to 12 degrees in Southern Utah by 2100.
Ski resorts need snow to open. Many resorts supplement early season snow with artificial snow that requires a minimum temperature at or below 23 degrees. Since 1980, the minimum daily temperature has increased at all 14 Utah ski resorts, and at 12 of the 14 resorts the number of early season days with a minimum temperature at or below 23 degrees has significantly decreased.
“I was really surprised by how dramatic the decline is in the proportion of the ski season where snowmaking is possible from 1980-2019,” said Emily Wilkins, a USU post-doctoral researcher with the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and one of the lead authors on the research. “We know that minimum daily temperatures have been rising due to climate change, and that means fewer days where snowmaking is possible, but I didn’t expect the decline to be so consistent and drastic across all Utah resorts.”
Utah ski resorts are already impacted by climate change and as the impacts become more severe, adaptation strategies will be needed to minimize negative impacts of higher temperatures and less snow.
Ski resorts have a few options to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Of the eight Utah ski resort managers interviewed, most resorts have already begun to implement adaptation measures such as diversifying winter and off-season activities, increasing snowmaking capacity and closing slopes when there is not enough snow. But resort managers face moderate to extreme barriers in financing adaptation changes and limitations on water availability.
“Skiing is one of the most at-risk recreational activities under climate change due to its dependence on snow,” said Wilkins. “It’s important for ski resorts and surrounding communities to know what climatic changes we have already seen, and what changes we might expect in the future, so they can prepare and adapt.”
Utah’s deep, dry powder is a vital part of this state’s culture and economy. But climate change necessitates adaptation, and ski resorts will need to adapt to stay viable for the coming decades, Wilkins concluded.
The results of this work will be available in an upcoming issue of the journal Mountain Research Development.
Sitting in front of a large computer monitor in the back of a Pilatus PC-12 airplane parked at the Centennial Airport, firefighter Adam Hanson says his work feels more important this year than it ever has before.
He flies in this plane alongside a small crew armed with an infrared camera that can detect an unattended campfire from 25 miles away.
And this year, the plane and its camera have detected at least 206 fires no human could see…
Bruce Dikken, who manages the state’s fleet of firefighting aircraft, says dozens of fires could have become bigger ones last summer had the camera not detected them shortly after they started…
Many are caused by lighting strikes in very remote areas.
A year after the East Troublesome Fire advanced with unprecedented fury and became one of the state’s biggest and most destructive blazes, the state’s firefighters say there is more pressure to detect and extinguish fires before they grow…
And Dikken says the state has been improving the aerial reconnaissance program since it started seven years ago.
“We can create a fire perimeter, draw a line around the edge of it, and then we can send that out to anybody that has access to the internet so they know where that fire’s at right now, including having pictures and video of the fire activity so they know what to expect,” he says.
But even with two of these infrared cameras monitoring the landscape around the entire state, blazes like the East Troublesome and the Cameron Peak fires convinced lawmakers this year they needed more tools to join the fight.
Looking to the skies
The most immediate step the state took in response to Colorado’s record fire season last year was ordering a $24 million aircraft called a Firehawk.
It’s a Sikorsky, military-grade helicopter modified to quickly drop water on approaching flames…
Colorado’s first Firehawk is currently being built in a hangar in Englewood and will take to the skies next year.
In the meantime, engineers in Colorado have been busy this summer testing and developing a brand-new technology they say is starting to revolutionize how firefighters battle wildfires down on the ground.
Adapting battlefield tech
Brad Schmidt starts a program on his laptop at the Centennial Airport and small dots start rapidly moving around a map.
He’s demonstrating the TAK app, a smartphone program that allows firefighters to see the location of their colleagues, fire engines and even aircraft in real-time.
“They’ve never had this type of real-time information before, and some of them have been working in fire for 20 or 30 years,” he said. “Typically, they’ll get one map of the fire every 24 hours, and a lot of cases it literally is a paper map of the fire.”
The smartphone app was originally developed by the military to give soldiers a better idea of what was happening on the battlefield.
And Schmidt says this new digital platform brings lots of benefits to firefighters.
“You’re out in the woods. You might not know at a fork in the road which way to go,” he said. “And rather than having to talk on a voice radio for a couple of minutes to figure out which direction, you could just look at your phone and see exactly where your boss is that that needs you to come down and meet with them.”
Schmidt says he tested the technology this year on the Muddy Slide Fire in Routt County near Steamboat Springs, as well as a large blaze in California.
In his 2021 letter to CEOs, Larry Fink, the CEO and chairman of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, wrote: “No issue ranks higher than climate change on our clients’ lists of priorities.”
His comment reflected a growing unease with how the climate crisis is already disrupting businesses.
Over the past few decades, many companies came to embrace sustainability. It became the corporate norm to seek ways to reduce a company’s negative impacts on society and the planet and operate more responsibly.
Sustainability-as-usual is the slow and voluntary adoption of sustainability in business, where companies commit to changes they feel comfortable making. It’s not necessarily the same as what science shows is needed to slow climate change, or what the United Nations recommends for an equitable society. Businesses’ response to both will be drawing global attention in November when world leaders gather for the annual U.N. climate conference.
One notable example is Heinz. The ketchup maker announced a cap for its ketchup bottle that is 100% recyclable. It was the outcome of $1.2 million invested and 185,000 hours of work over eight years, according to the company.
Climate change requires a new approach
While companies appear to grasp the magnitude of the climate crisis, they have been trying to address it mainly in a sustainability-as-usual fashion – one ketchup bottle cap at a time.
Consider emissions reductions. Companies have been slow to commit to reducing their emissions to zero no later than mid-century, a target that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – roughly 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit – and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Only about one-fifth of the major companies have 2030 goals that are in line with reaching net-zero goals by 2050 at the latest.
Companies have tried to rebrand their efforts in ways that sound more sophisticated, moving from terms like “corporate social responsibility (CSR)” to “environmental, social and governance (ESG),” “purposeful companies” and “carbon-neutral products.”
Business is at a strategic inflection point, which Andy Grove, the former CEO of computer chip-maker Intel, described as “a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change.”
This transformation could evolve in different ways, but as I suggest in my book, fighting climate change effectively requires a new mindset that shifts the relationships between profit maximization and sustainability to prioritize sustainability over profit.
Early signs of evolution
There are early signs of evolution, both within companies and from the forces that shape the environment in which companies operate.
Another example is changes in companies’ relationships with suppliers – for example, the business software company Salesforce added a sustainability clause to its contracts requiring suppliers to set carbon reduction goals.
Add to these bright spots changes in regulation and policy worldwide that aim to put in place key sustainability principles and push to cut emissions at a faster pace, plus the changing expectations of young job seekers when it comes to environmental and social issues, such as inclusion and diversity, and you can start to see how the end of sustainability-as-usual may be closer than many people think. Due to climate change, the question is more “when” than “if” it will happen.
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Here’s the release from the University of Nebraska Lincoln (Cory Matteson):
To provide people with accurate data about rainfall, temperature, wind speed and more, climatologists in states across the nation lead strategic installations of research-grade weather stations across their states. Weather stations are finely tuned machines, expected to record key data within finite margins of error. But even high-tech systems need a tune-up once in a while, Nebraska State Climatologist Martha Shulski observes.
This past summer, the State Climate Office in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources began offering weather station sensor calibration services for research-grade equipment used in other states.
The State Climate Office stepped in to consolidate and streamline a calibration process that is often time-consuming, Shulski said. Four different companies manufacture the sensors on a typical U.S. weather station, she said, meaning a state office must send parts to multiple companies that often have backlogs.
The Nebraska program began with a shipment from the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, which sent a set of 17 temperature and humidity sensors from weather stations to Hardin Hall. There, in a basement lab, senior Nebraska Mesonet technician Glen Roebke ran the meteorological instruments through a battery of tests with instruments that can calibrate air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure readings and more.
The calibration center is an extension of the work the Nebraska State Climate Office has long performed for weather station sensors in its statewide Nebraska Mesonet weather-monitoring network, Shulski said.
“We’ve always calibrated our instrumentation in house,” Shulski said. “Now we’re opening up this service to other state weather networks. We’ve got the expertise. Glen has been doing this for roughly 20 years. He looked at what manufacturers do when you ship sensors to them for calibration tests and determined what we could replicate here in the lab. He looked at what other weather networks use for their sensors and equipment and developed techniques based on that.”
That effort led to the development of, among other tools, an indoor solar calibration table that is now located in the basement lab. Roebke previously only had a finite window of time to test the solar readings of the Nebraska State Climate Office’s pyranometers, which measure solar radiation.
“We’ve done a study in the past on when the best time of year to calibrate is, and the magic month is May,” Roebke said. “There are a lot of things that go into it. We want clear days, but there are a lot of clouds in the month of May, so it limits the number of days we can use it. And the other thing that’s a huge variable is temperature. Temperature affects how these instruments work. So we don’t want to do it in late July or the middle of August, because temperature changes the output. We want to stabilize it.”
Before the table was installed, Roebke could be found in the Hardin Hall elevators every spring, bringing pyranometers up to be tested on a platform on the 10-story building’s roof, where a precision spectral pyranometer was installed.
The indoor solar calibration table allows any time in the basement lab to simulate a sunny day in May, as far as a weather station’s pyranometer is concerned.
The lab also features equipment that can test each of the typical sensors that would have normally been sent to a manufacturer when they required calibration, Shulski added.
A weather station in Nebraska observes air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, solar radiation, warm-season liquid precipitation every minute, and soil temperature and soil moisture at five depths every hour. Checking equipment yearly, Roebke said, helps the Nebraska Mesonet sensors stay within a half-percent margin of error, rather than drifting 2% to 4% off, as equipment can when it’s not checked over two- or three-year stretches. “It’s a huge difference in the world of meteorology,” he said. It costs about $2,600 a year, per weather station, to run and calibrate the equipment, Shulski said. The stations are often sponsored by natural resource districts, and the equipment is in service for about a decade before its components are all replaced.
Some maintenance still requires field trips, she said. Lightning, gophers and coyotes are among a weather station’s natural enemies. If rain is measured in an area surrounding another weather station but not at that particular station, for instance, there’s a good chance that a spider web has been constructed atop its precipitation gauge. (Shulski said they spray vinegar on the gauges to prevent that.) Nebraska Mesonet’s 63 stations get inspected, and the grass around them mowed, at least four times a year.
The information collected from the sensors feeds into critical weather information systems, such as the National Weather Service. It is used to determine when to issue flood warnings and when to declare drought emergencies. It helps ag producers make irrigation decisions and parents decide whether their kids need coats at recess. It helps track the changing climate over time. Shulski said it’s imperative to make sure the weather stations are providing readings that are as accurate as possible.
Shulski said the University of Nebraska has the people, knowledge and gear to offer calibration services to states that don’t have similar in-house setups. The services help augment operational funding for the Nebraska Mesonet, she said, and could help contribute to continued expansion of the network.
Currently, 47 of the state’s 93 counties have weather stations, a strong spatial representation of what’s going on with Nebraska weather, Shulski said. However, she hopes to install at least one weather station in each of the remaining counties without one.
As more states utilize Nebraska’s calibration lab, the revenue that the project brings in will allow for students to learn on-the-job calibration training in the lab, while also testing new equipment and sensors as weather station technology evolves.
“The calibration facility is part of our long-term vision for the (Nebraska) Mesonet, and it’s quite exciting to see it come to fruition in such a short time,” Shulski said.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay):
Each fall, brown trout spawn in the mountain creeks and rivers across Colorado. It is also when aquatic biologists, hatchery staff, wildlife officers and volunteers for Colorado Parks and Wildlife come together to conduct its annual brown trout spawning operation at North Delaney Butte Lake and Antero Reservoir.
A quota is set to collect the number of eggs necessary to meet the needs for hatchery production, which CPW uses to augment natural reproduction across Colorado’s creeks, rivers and reservoirs.
This year, that quota was 1.1 million brown trout eggs. It took just three working days at those two brood stock bodies of water to meet the quota of fertilized eggs that get sent to CPW’s Mt. Shavano Hatchery in Salida and its Poudre Rearing Hatchery in Larimer County.
The hatcheries will rear the fish to a fingerling size, around three inches, before being stocked out across Colorado in 2022. Those brown trout fingerlings will get stocked back into both Antero Reservoir and North Delaney Butte Lake to ensure a strong brood stock population, but also across many other reservoirs and rivers.
“Some of them will come back and be stocked into Antero and some will go to North Delaney as well, so we can come back in three or four years and still will have fish,” said Tyler Swarr, aquatic biologist leading the brown trout spawning operation at Antero Reservoir. “The rest of them will get stocked out across the state.”
CPW stocks more than 700,000 brown trout annually to provide exceptional fishing opportunities.
Crews at Antero Reservoir were able to collect and fertilize 227,026 brown trout eggs from 117 females during its lone spawning day on Wednesday, Oct. 6.
At North Delaney Butte Lake in North Park, CPW’s team needed just three days (Oct. 5-7) to gather 888,574 eggs to surpass the quota of 1.1 million fertilized brown trout eggs for the year.
“2021 was another good brown trout spawn year at North Delaney,” said Kyle Battige, aquatic biologist leading the brown trout spawning operation there. “We saw many year classes present, handled over 1,500 brown trout in three days and I’m happy overall with the current condition of the brood lake”
Brown trout spawn in the wild occurs over the months of October and November. It is temperature dependent.
“River fish spawn a little bit later since it is colder,” Swarr said. “Since reservoirs absorb a lot more solar radiation, they are warmer, so they’ll actually spawn earlier here than they will in rivers.”
In the reservoirs, the silt from the wave action can cover the eggs and prevent them from getting the fresh oxygen they need to grow and hatch. In a river setting, brown trout will lay eggs in the gravel on the river bottom. Those eggs typically get laid in places of upwelling where there is a crest of a riffle and you have a plunge that causes the water to travel through the gravel, slowly turning the eggs and delivering oxygen to them.
“Our spawning operation helps to sustain some of our brown trout fisheries in the state and provides a little bit more fishing diversity for anglers,” Swarr said.
Brown trout are a hard-fighting fish and have beautiful coloration that matches the autumn season. Brown trout are golden brown with vibrant black, red and orange spots.
“The cool thing about them in the state of Colorado is they are resistant to whirling disease since they evolved with that in Europe,” Swarr said. “So, they’ve become kind of the bread and butter of our wild trout fisheries, at least in our northeast region, because really most of the brown trout in the state of Colorado are naturally reproducing wild populations and we don’t have to stock them to the numbers we do with rainbows. Rainbow trout are still impacted heavily by whirling disease.”
President Barack Obama’s establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument in Proclamation 9558 of December 28, 2016, represented the culmination of more than a century of efforts to protect the ancestral homeland of Tribal Nations that all refer to the area by the same name — Hoon’Naqvut (Hopi), Shash Jaa’ (Navajo), Kwiyagatu Nukavachi (Ute), and Ansh An Lashokdiwe (Zuni): Bears Ears. Preserving the sacred landscape and unique cultural resources in the Bears Ears region was an impetus for passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906. As early as 1904, advocates for protection of cultural landscapes described for the Congress the tragedy of the destruction of objects of historic and scientific interest across the American Southwest and identified the Bears Ears region as one of seven areas in need of immediate protection. Nevertheless, for more than 100 years, indigenous people, historians, conservationists, scientists, archaeologists, and other groups advocated unsuccessfully for protection of the Bears Ears landscape. It was not until the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni united in a common vision to protect these sacred lands and requested permanent protection from President Obama that Bears Ears National Monument became a reality. Few national monuments more clearly meet the Antiquities Act’s criteria for protection than the Bears Ears Buttes and surrounding areas. This proclamation confirms, restores, and supplements the boundaries and protections provided by Proclamation 9558, including the continued reservation of land added to the monument by Proclamation 9681 of December 4, 2017.
As Proclamation 9558 recognizes, the greater Bears Ears landscape, characterized by deep sandstone canyons, broad desert mesas, towering monoliths, forested mountaintops dotted with lush meadows, and the striking Bears Ears Buttes, has supported indigenous people of the Southwest from time immemorial and continues to be sacred land to the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni. Approximately two dozen other Tribal Nations and Pueblos have cultural ties to the area as well.
Describing as much as 13,000 years of human occupation of the Bears Ears landscape, Proclamation 9558 contextualizes the compelling need to protect one of the most extraordinary cultural landscapes in the United States. The proclamation describes the landscape’s unique density of significant cultural, historical, and archaeological artifacts spanning thousands of years, including remains of single family homes, ancient cliff dwellings, large villages, granaries, kivas, towers, ceremonial sites, prehistoric steps cut into cliff faces, and a prehistoric road system that connected the people of Bears Ears to each other and possibly beyond. Proclamation 9558 also describes the cultural significance and importance of the area, exemplified by the petroglyphs, pictographs, and recent rock writings left by the indigenous people that have inhabited the area since time immemorial.
In addition to cultural and historic sites, Proclamation 9558 describes the Bears Ears landscape’s unique geology, biology, ecology, paleontology, and topography. The proclamation identifies geologic formations rich with fossils that provide a rare and relatively complete picture of the paleoenvironment, striking landscapes, unique landforms, and rare and important plant and animal species. While not objects of historic and scientific interest designated for protection, the proclamation also describes other resources in the area, historic grazing, and world class outdoor recreation opportunities — including rock climbing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding — that support a booming travel and tourism sector that is a source of economic opportunity for local communities.
To protect this singular and sacred landscape, President Obama reserved approximately 1.35 million acres through Proclamation 9558 as the smallest area compatible with protection of the objects identified within the boundaries of the monument. He also established the Bears Ears Commission to ensure that management of the monument would be guided by, and benefit from, expertise of Tribal Nations and traditional and historical knowledge of the area.
On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Proclamation 9681 to reduce the lands within the monument by more than 1.1 million acres. In doing so, Proclamation 9681 removes protection from objects of historic and scientific interest across the Bears Ears landscape, including some objects that Proclamation 9558 specifically identifies by name for protection. Multiple parties challenged Proclamation 9681 in Federal court, asserting that it exceeds the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act.
Restoring the Bears Ears National Monument honors the special relationship between the Federal Government and Tribal Nations, correcting the exclusion of lands and resources profoundly sacred to Tribal Nations, and ensuring the long-term protection of, and respect for, this remarkable and revered region. Given the unique nature and cultural significance of the objects identified across the Bears Ears landscape, the threat of damage and destruction to those objects, their spiritual, cultural, and historical significance to Tribal Nations, and the insufficiency of the protections afforded in the absence of Antiquities Act protections, the reservation described below is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic and scientific interest named in this proclamation and Proclamation 9558.
he Bears Ears landscape — bordered by the Colorado River to the west, the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation to the south, low bluffs and high mesas to the east and north, and Canyonlands National Park to the northwest, and brimming with towering sandstone spires, serpentine canyons, awe-inspiring natural bridges and arches, as well as the famous twin Bears Ears Buttes standing sentinel over the sacred region — is not just a series of isolated objects, but is, itself, an object of historic and scientific interest requiring protection under the Antiquities Act. Bears Ears is sacred land of spiritual significance, a historic homeland, and a place of belonging for indigenous people from the Southwest. Bears Ears is a living, breathing landscape, that — owing to the area’s arid environment and overall remoteness, as well as the building techniques that its inhabitants employed — retains remarkable and spiritually significant evidence of indigenous use and habitation since time immemorial, including from the Paleoindian Period, through the time of the Basketmakers and Ancestral Pueblos, to the more recent Navajo and Ute period, and continuing to this day. There are innumerable objects of historic or scientific interest within this extraordinary landscape. Some of the objects are also sacred to Tribal Nations, are sensitive, rare, or vulnerable to vandalism and theft, or are dangerous to visit and, therefore, revealing their specific names and locations could pose a danger to the objects or the public. The variety, density, and prevalence of these objects, such as prehistoric roads, structures, shrines, ceremonial sites, graves, pots, baskets, tools, petroglyphs, pictographs, and items of clothing, all contribute to the uniqueness of this region and underscore its sacred nature and living spiritual significance to indigenous people.
Many of the Tribal Nations that trace their ancestral origin to this area and continue their spiritual practices on these lands today view Bears Ears as a part of the personal identity of their members and as a cultural living space — a landscape where their traditions began, where their ancestors engaged in and handed down cultural practices, and where they developed and refined complex protocols for caring for the land. The Bears Ears region is also a tangible location that is integral to indigenous ceremonial practices, cultural traditions, and the sustainment of the daily lives of indigenous peoples. Since time immemorial, the lands of the Bears Ears region have fostered indigenous identity and spirituality. Indigenous people lived, hunted, gathered, prayed, and built homes in the Bears Ears region. As a result, each geographic subregion and the mountains, canyons, mesa tops, ridges, rivers, and streams therein that make up the Bears Ears landscape hold cultural significance. These individual locales come together as objects of historic and scientific interest — many of which have spiritual significance to indigenous people and are located across this living landscape ‑- to tell stories, facilitate the practice of traditions, and serve as a mnemonic device that elders use to teach younger generations where they came from, who they are, and how to live. Resources found throughout the Bears Ears region, including wildlife and plants that are native to the region, continue to serve integral roles in the development and practice of indigenous ceremonial and cultural lifeways. From family gatherings, dances, and ceremonies held on these sacred lands, to gathering roots, berries, firewood, piñon nuts, weaving materials, and medicines across the region, Bears Ears remains an essential landscape that members of Tribal Nations regularly visit to heal, practice their spirituality, pray, rejuvenate, and connect with their history.
The Bears Ears region is also important to, and shows recent evidence of, non-Native migrants to the area. From the smoothed-over surfaces of the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to the historic cattle-ranching cabins, and the convoluted series of passages and hideouts used by men like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other members of the Wild Bunch on the Outlaw Trail, including Hideout Canyon, the Bears Ears landscape conveys the story of westward expansion of European Americans and the settlement of Latter-day Saint communities in southern Utah. Hispanic sheep herders from New Mexico also migrated into this area during the late 1800s, and many of their descendants continue to live in local communities.
Despite millennia of human habitation, the Bears Ears landscape remains one of the most ecologically intact and least‑roaded regions in the contiguous United States. As a result, the area continues to provide habitat to a variety of threatened, endangered, sensitive, endemic, or otherwise rare species of wildlife, fish, and plants. The area also contains a diverse array of species that benefit from the preservation of the landscape’s intact ecosystems.
The Bears Ears landscape also tells the stories of epochs past. The area’s exposed geologic formations provide a continuous record of vertebrate life in North America as well as a rich history of invertebrate fossils. The Chinle Formation, and the Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo Formations above it, demonstrate how the Triassic Period transitioned into the Jurassic Period and provide critical insight into both how dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems and how our mammalian ancestors evolved. The discovery of several taxa, including a prosauropod that gets its name from a Navajo word tied to the region where it was found, the archosauromorph Crosbysaurus harrisae, and a unique phytosaur, have occurred exclusively within Bears Ears or have significantly extended an extinct species’ known range. While paleontologists have only recently begun to systematically survey and study much of the fossil record in this region, experts are confident that scientifically important paleontological resources remain to be discovered, and future exploration will greatly expand our understanding of prehistoric life on the Colorado Plateau.
The landscape itself is composed of several areas, each of which is unique and an object of scientific and historic interest requiring protection under the Antiquities Act. Near the center is the Bears Ears Buttes and Headwaters, the location of the iconic twin buttes, which soar over the surrounding landscape and maintain watch over the ancestral home of numerous Tribal Nations. Containing dense fir and aspen forests that provide firewood to heat homes as well as powerful medicines and habitat for wild game species, Tribal Nations view the high elevation oasis as the key to life in the Bears Ears region. The Bears Ears Buttes also hold historical significance to the Navajo people, as the landscape and natural cliff dwellings served as hiding places to escape the United States military during the forced Long Walk, where more than 11,000 Navajo were marched up to 450 miles on foot to internment camps in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Many Navajo hid in the remote canyons to avoid the forced removal from their traditional homelands in the Southwest by the United States from 1864 to 1868.
In the northern part of the Bears Ears landscape lies Indian Creek, the home of a world-renowned canyon characterized by sheer red cliffs and spires of exposed and eroded layers of Navajo, Kayenta, Wingate, and Cedar Mesa Sandstone, including the iconic North and South Six-Shooter Peaks. The canyon includes famous vertical cracks striating its sandstone walls and the area provides important habitat for a multitude of plant and animal species. Indian Creek’s palisades provide eyries for peregrine falcons and potential nesting sites for bald and golden eagles, and the Lockhart Basin area and Donnelly Canyon contain Mexican spotted owl habitat. The Indian Creek area further provides critical winter grounds for big-game species such as mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep and potential habitat for endangered fish and threatened plant species. The prominent Bridger Jack and Lavender Mesas are home to largely unaltered relict plant communities composed of pinyon-juniper woodlands interspersed with small sagebrush islands. It is also in Indian Creek that one can find Newspaper Rock, a massive petroglyph panel displaying a notable concentration of rock writings from persons of the Basketmaker and Ancestral Pueblo periods, the Ute and Navajo people who still live in the Four Corners area and beyond, and early settlers of European descent. Indian Creek also contains possible evidence of trade with cultures extending into Mesoamerica, including a thousand-year-old ornamental sash found in the area made from azure and scarlet macaw feathers as well as a petroglyph featuring a macaw-like bird figure. Shay Canyon is a side canyon that houses extensive, well-preserved petroglyph panels from multiple prehistoric periods. The panels contain a unique rock writing style that is believed to be both Freemont and Ancestral Pueblo in origin. Harts Point is an escarpment that provides spectacular views of the Indian Creek Canyon. These mesa tops also contain evidence of historic connections of indigenous people to the region. Additionally, Indian Creek provides fossilized trackways of early tetrapods and fossilized traces of marine and aquatic creatures such as clams, crayfish, fish, and aquatic reptiles dating to the Triassic Period.
Southwest of Indian Creek and geographically nestled between the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the Dark Canyon Wilderness area, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, lie Beef Basin and Fable Valley, areas characterized by well-preserved Ancestral Pueblo surface sites ‑- including freestanding Pueblo masonry structures and towers — as well as petroglyphs and pictographs. The areas are unique in their high concentration of large, mesa-top Pueblo structures. Sites in this region may also provide evidence of some of the furthest north migration of Pueblo in the Mesa Verde region.
Just south of Indian Creek, the westernmost edge of the Abajo Mountains forms the eastern boundary of the Bears Ears landscape. An island laccolith series of peaks and domes known also as the Blue Mountains due to the appearance of their heavily forested slopes contrasted against the red desert that surrounds them, the Abajo Mountains are rich in wildlife and home to several rare and sensitive plant species. As a result of the breadth of species, the Abajo Mountains have long been a traditional hunting ground for the indigenous people that have lived in the area and are held sacred by a number of Tribal Nations, including the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribes. These peaks represent the highest elevations in the Bears Ears landscape and provide unbroken views of the entire region.
South of Beef Basin and Indian Creek, the landscape contains a number of sandstone canyons that drain the northern edge of the Abajo Mountains and Elk Ridge, including the Tuerto, Trough, Ruin, and North Cottonwood Canyons, at the bottom of which runs a perennial creek. Ancestral Pueblo sites within this area have special significance to the Pueblos of New Mexico, who identify these sites as part of their ancestral footprints that extend their traditional territory north of the Abajo Mountains. The area, which is composed of both Cedar Mesa Sandstone and Chinle Formation deposits, has a very high potential for Permian and Triassic fossils.
The South Cottonwood Canyon region, characterized by prominent sandstone escarpments surrounded by forests of pinyon, juniper, and Gambel oak, interspersed with stands of ponderosa pine and mixed conifers, is situated west of the Abajo Mountains and south of the prominent sandstone towers known as the Chippean Rocks. The isolated area contains intact cultural landscapes of early Ancestral Pueblo communities. Some sites are organized as a larger central village surrounded by smaller family-sized dwellings, while others are large and inaccessible granaries. This region is home to a diversity of wildlife, including Townsend’s big-eared bats, beavers, and ringtail cats, as well as the Cliff Dwellers Pasture Research Natural Area, an ungrazed box canyon with a unique vegetative community and an imposing sandstone arch and natural bridge. The area also contains excellent big game habitat and is considered prime mule deer, elk, and black bear hunting grounds.
Further west, South Cottonwood Canyon is home to a unique density of Pueblo I to early Pueblo II village sites that are considered important to both archaeologists and Tribal Nations. One site, a collapsed two-story block masonry structure that appears to be an early version of a great house, was built during a time when the development of this kind of community structure was only beginning in Chaco Canyon. More recently, the South Cottonwood Canyon area proved critical to the survival of the White Mesa Ute during Anglo settlement of southern Utah. Paleontologically, there is high potential fossil yield on both the west side of the area, which contains portions of the Triassic Period Chinle and Moenkopi Formations, and the east side, which is composed of Jurassic Period Glen Canyon Group Kayenta Formation. The area also provides critical habitat for Mexican spotted owls, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and spotted bats.
The Dark Canyon, Dry Mesa complex, located between Beef Basin and White Canyon, is wild and remote. In Dark Canyon — a canyon system that includes Peavine, Woodenshoe, and other minor tributaries — rock walls, which tower 3,000 feet above the canyon floor, provide a sense of solitude and isolation from the surrounding mesa tops. The canyon system, one of the only entirely intact and protected canyons from its headwaters on the Colorado Plateau to its confluence with the Colorado River, includes numerous hanging gardens, springs, and riparian areas and provides habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including known populations of Mexican spotted owl. Dry Mesa is relatively flat with stands of ponderosa pine, oak, and pinyon and juniper that provide foraging habitat for golden eagles and peregrine falcons. Many Tribal Nations have strong connections to sites in the area from three specific time periods: ancient hunter-gatherers during the Archaic period, Ancestral Pueblos during the Pueblo III period, and finally, Navajo, Ute, and Paiute families just before and during European migration into the Four Corners area. Visitors to the Dark Canyon Wilderness area will find the Doll House, a fully-intact and well-preserved single-room granary. Located at the bottom of Horse Pasture Canyon and Dark Canyon, visitors will also find Scorup Cabin, a line cabin originally built in Rig Canyon and later moved to its current location, that cowboys used as a summer camp while running cattle in the area. The area also contains exposures of Permian Period Cutler Group deposits that have a high potential to contain both vertebrate and invertebrate fossils.
Utah’s White Canyon makes a gorgeous, serpentine cut through Cedar Mesa, near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But it remains unprotected. It lies at the heart of the proposed Glen Canyon Wilderness, where the vast expanse of Paleozoic-era sandstone known as Nokai Dome eases its way to the upper reaches of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This region also includes the soaring Wingate Cliffs of the Red Rock Plateau, Mancos Mesa, Moqui Canyon with its meandering stream, Red Canyon, and the serpentine side canyons of White Canyon. This is one of the most remote regions of the state, but it lacks protection and is threatened by increasing ORV use.
It is all part of the San Juan-Canyonlands region of Southeastern Utah, one of the most iconic landscapes recommended for protection in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, boasting dramatic geologic features wrought by elemental forces, as well as internationally significant cultural sites of the Ancestral Puebloans and the Mormon Pioneers. Adorned with buttes and arches, vast stretches of slickrock deposited over 250 million years ago, ancient pinyon-juniper forests and an artist’s pallet of red-hued sandstone, the San Juan-Canyonlands region has inspired explorers since the days of John Wesley Powell, and its wonders represent some of the greatest unprotected wilderness in the country.[/caption]
The White Canyon region, west of Dark Canyon, is a remote area featuring an extensive complex of steep and narrow canyons cut through light-colored Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Once used by outlaws to evade authorities, the area’s slot canyons, including the Black Hole, Fry Canyon, and Cheesebox Canyon, now draw adventurers in search of multi-day, technical canyoneering opportunities. The entire White Canyon area has a rich paleontological history. Research in the area is ongoing, but recent discoveries of track sites in the Triassic Moenkopi Formation and an assemblage of invertebrate burrows suggest that a diverse fauna once thrived here. Mollusks, phytosaurs, and possible theropod and ornithischian fossils have also been found in White Canyon.
Located between the Abajo Mountains and the Colorado River, the high plateau of Elk Ridge provides stunning views of the surrounding canyons and the Bears Ears Buttes to the south. Visitors passing through the Notch, a naturally occurring narrow pass between north and south Elk Ridge, are treated to spectacular vistas of Dark Canyon to the west and Notch Canyon to the east. The area’s higher elevations, which contain pockets of ancient Engelmann spruce, rare stands of old-growth ponderosa pine, aspen, and subalpine fir, and a genetically distinct population of Kachina daisy, provide welcome respite from the higher temperatures found in the region’s lower elevations, especially during the summer. There is evidence that indigenous people have hunted and gathered plants on Elk Ridge for at least 8,000 years, a practice that continues today and is considered sacred by the Navajo Nation. Elk Ridge also has a long history of livestock grazing by Navajo and Ute families and later Anglo settlers. While the mesa top is primarily dry, water naturally occurs at the area’s seeps and springs, as well as the ephemeral Duck Lake, a seasonal wetland located on top of Elk Ridge that results from snowmelt. The upper reaches of the ridge also contain Upper Triassic formations with a high potential to contain fossils.
To the east of Elk Ridge lies a major system of canyons on National Forest System lands, including Hammond Canyon, Upper Arch Canyon, Texas Canyon, and Notch Canyon. This deeply incised canyon system is composed of stunning red sandstone walls, white pinnacles, lush green foliage, and several small waterfalls. Uniquely, the area also contains large sandstone towers and hoodoos in a forested setting. The Hammond Canyon area, which is central to the history of the White Mesa Utes, contains numerous Ancestral Pueblo sites, including cliff dwellings. Hammond Canyon also contains an Ancestral Pueblo village with structures and pottery from multiple Ancestral Pueblo periods. High fossil potential exists in both the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic Glen Canyon Sandstone of Hammond Canyon’s lower half as well as the Permian Period Cedar Mesa Sandstone found in its upper half.
Just south of Elk Ridge, Arch Canyon is a 12-mile long box canyon containing numerous arches, including Cathedral Arch, Angel Arch, and Keystone Arch. The area is teeming with fossilized remains, including numerous specimens from the Permian and Upper Permian eras. Cliff dwellings and hanging gardens are located throughout the canyon. Arch Canyon Great House, which spans the Pueblo II and III periods and contains pictographs and petroglyphs ranging from the Archaic to the historic periods, is located at the canyon’s mouth. A perennial stream that provides potential habitat for sensitive fish species and for the threatened Navajo sedge is located in the canyon’s bottom.
Mule Canyon, a 500-foot deep, 5-mile long chasm, is situated northeast of the Fish Creek area and southeast of the Bears Ears Buttes. Throughout the canyon, cliff dwellings and other archaeological sites are sheltered by rock walls composed of alternating layers of red and white sandstone. Among those are the stunning House on Fire, which has different masonry styles that indicate several episodes of construction and use. The area’s rich archaeological history is also evidenced on the nearby tablelands, where the Mule Canyon Village site allows visitors to view the exposed masonry walls of ancient living quarters and a partially restored kiva. Recent research suggests that Ancestral Pueblos in this area may have cultivated a variety of plants that are uncommon across the wider landscape and persist to this day, such as the Four Corners potato, goosefoot, wolfberry, and sumac. Although similar cultivation may have been occurring near Ancestral Pueblo sites across the Bears Ears landscape, it appears to have been particularly prevalent in and around the Mule, South Cottonwood, Dry, Arch, and Owl Canyons.
Tilted at almost 20 degrees and running along a north-south axis from the foothills of the Abajo Mountains, past the San Juan River, and onto the Navajo Nation, the serrated cliffs of the Comb Ridge monocline are visible from space and have both spiritual and practical significance to many Tribal Nations. It is in this area that one can find a series of alcoves in Whiskers Draw that have sheltered evidence of human habitation for thousands of years, including the site where Richard Wetherill first identified what we know today as the Basketmaker people, as well as Milk Ranch Point, where early Ancestral Pueblo farmers found refuge when the climate turned hotter and dryer at lower elevations. Comb Ridge, flanked on the west by Comb Wash and on the east by Butler Wash, holds additional evidence of centuries of human habitation, including cliff dwellings, such as the well-known Butler Wash Village and Monarch Cave, kivas, ceremonial sites, and rock writings, like the Procession Panel, Wolfman Panel, and Lower Butler Wash Panel, a wall-sized mural depicting San Juan Anthropomorph figures dating to the Basketmaker period that is considered important for understanding the daily life and rituals of the Basketmaker people. Chacoan roads as well as the handholds and steps carved into cliff faces found in this area formed part of the region’s migration system and are integral to the story of the Bears Ears landscape. The Comb Ridge area also contains a rich paleontological history, including an Upper Triassic microvertebrate site with greater taxonomic diversity than any other published site of the same nature in Utah, and the earliest recorded instance of a giant arthropod trackway in Utah. Paleontologists have also found phytosaur and dinosaur fossils from the Triassic Period and have identified new species of plant-eating crocodile-like reptiles and rich bonebeds of lumbering sauropods in the area.
South Cottonwood Wash is an extensive drainage just east of Comb Ridge that extends from the Abajo Mountains to the San Juan River near Bluff, Utah. The drainage contains at least three great houses as well as a number of alcove sites, and it has a high density of petroglyphs and pictographs, including a cave with more than 200 handprints in a variety of colors. There is also evidence of a Chacoan road that connected multiple great houses and kiva sites. These prehistoric transportation systems in the Bears Ears region are critical to understanding the trading patterns, economy, and social organization of ancient Pueblo communities and the other major cultural centers with whom they interacted, such as Chaco Canyon.
At the far southern end of the Bears Ears landscape lies Valley of the Gods, a broad expanse of sandstone monoliths, pinnacles, and other geological features of historic and scientific interest. Towering spires of red sandstone that rise from the valley floor are held sacred by the Navajo people, who view the formations as ancient warriors frozen in stone and places of power in which spirits reside. The austere valley, which is noteworthy in both its geology and ecology, provides habitat for Eucosma navajoensis, an endemic moth that lives nowhere else. The Mars-like landscape also contains evidence of our own planet’s distant past, including early tetrapod trackways, Paleozoic freshwater sharks, ray-finned fishes, lobe-finned fishes, giant primitive amphibians, and multiple unique taxa of mammal-like reptiles. Paleontologists have also uncovered notable plant macrofossils including ancestral conifers, giant horsetail-like plants, ferns the size of trees, and lycopsids (similar to modern clubmoss).
The San Juan River forms the southern boundary of the Bears Ears landscape. One of the four sacred rivers that Tribal Nations believe were established by the gods to act as defensive guardians over their ancestral lands, the river is closely tied to traditional stories of creation, danger, protection, and healing. The Lime Ridge Clovis site demonstrates that the history of human occupation within the river corridor dates back at least 13,000 years. The Sand Island Petroglyph Panel presents petroglyphs primarily from the Basketmaker through the Pueblo III periods as well as more modern Navajo and Ute carvings. There are also a number of Ancestral Pueblo structures that are accessible by river, such as River House. Nearby San Juan Hill was the last major obstacle for the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition and presents visible evidence of the weary expedition’s effort to cross Comb Ridge, including parts of a road, wagon ruts, and an inscription at the top of the ridge. The river corridor also contains a number of unique geologic formations, such as the well-known balancing rock at Mexican Hat, and provides important habitat for the threatened yellow-billed cuckoo and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The river itself is home to two endangered fish species: Colorado pikeminnow, the largest minnow in North America, which is believed to have evolved more than 3 million years ago, and the razorback sucker, the only member of its genus.
Cedar Mesa is located in the heart of the Bears Ears landscape, west of Comb Ridge and north of the San Juan River. Ranging from approximately 4,000 to 6,500 feet in elevation, the approximately 400-square mile plateau is of deep significance to Tribal Nations. Characterized by pinyon-juniper forests on the mesa tops and canyons along its periphery, the entirety of Cedar Mesa is an object of scientific and historic interest, providing a broader context for the individual resources found there. It is the density of world-class cultural resources found throughout the remote, sloping plateau and its numerous canyons that make Cedar Mesa truly unique. For example, an open-twined yucca fiber sandal believed to be more than 7,000 years old was discovered in a dry shelter located in a narrow slickrock canyon in Cedar Mesa. Moon House is an example of iconic Pueblo-decorated architecture and was likely the last occupied site on Cedar Mesa. On the top of the plateau, Chacoan roads connect several Ancestral Pueblo great houses that show architectural influence from the Chaco Canyon region as well as ceramics that demonstrate both historic and modern Pueblo connections. And in the heart of Cedar Mesa, a multi-room, multi-story great house contains kivas with distinctive Chacoan features that are much larger than kivas found elsewhere on Cedar Mesa. Today, Cedar Mesa is home to bighorn sheep, but fossil evidence in the area’s sandstone has revealed large, mammal-like reptiles that burrowed into the sand to survive the blistering heat of the end of the Permian Period, when the region was dominated by a seaside desert. Later, during the Upper Triassic Period, seasonal monsoons flooded an ancient river system that fed a vast desert here. Salvation Knoll, a point from which lost Latter-day Saint pioneers were able to obtain their bearings on Christmas Day in 1879, is also located in the area.
Cedar Mesa is striated with deep chasms housing remarkably intact Ancestral Pueblo sites. John’s Canyon and Slickhorn Canyon, which empty into the San Juan River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the south, contain numerous petroglyphs, pictographs, and Ancestral Pueblo structures built into elongated alcoves on buff-colored cliffs. Similarly, the canyons on the east side of Cedar Mesa hold a significant density of archaeological sites providing a glimpse into the region’s past, including rock writings and Ancestral Pueblo dwellings. The Citadel cliff dwelling is just one example of the striking Ancestral Pueblo sites located in Road Canyon, while other sites include painted handprints and evidence of daily life left by Ancestral Pueblos. Located to the north of Road Canyon, the Fish Canyon area contains a number of Pueblo structures. The Fish Canyon area also contains one of the few perennial streams in the area and an important potential habitat for the Mexican spotted owl. Finally, the rust-colored, 145‑foot span of Nevills Arch awaits those who make the challenging trek down Owl Canyon. Opening to a height of 80 feet and named after Norman Nevills, the first boatman to take paying customers on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, the arch creates a striking window to the sky on the upper reaches of the canyon walls.
Grand Gulch, a mostly dry canyon that meanders for nearly 50 miles on the western edge of Cedar Mesa and is replete with thousands of cliff dwellings and rock writing sites, likely contains the highest concentration of Ancestral Pueblo sites on the Colorado Plateau. Initially occupied in the Basketmaker II and III periods, Grand Gulch’s initial inhabitants left pictographs and constructed shallow pithouses and camps on the mesa top and dry shelters for storage. One pictograph dating from this time period depicting two large, anthropomorphic figures is of special religious significance to Tribal Nations. Grand Gulch also contains a multitude of Pueblo II to III sites and was one of the first prehistoric national historic districts designated on the National Register of Historic Places. The area contains the Turkey Pen site, which is believed to provide some of the earliest evidence of turkey domestication in North America, a pristine kiva in a remote canyon bend, and countless other unique Pueblo structures, such as Junction Village, a large Pueblo habitation site; Split Level Village, a multi-level Pueblo habitation; and Bannister House, a habitation consisting of two relatively intact structures and a spring at the base of the cliff face. Grand Gulch also contains unique artifacts, such as a tattoo needle, a site containing a multichromatic pictograph of a mask, important historic archaeological inscriptions from the Wetherill expedition, and a multitude of other rock writings.
Kane Gulch is a tributary canyon of Grand Gulch incised through Cedar Mesa Sandstone and clogged with house-sized boulders. The canyon houses an aspen grove — an uncommon occurrence at such elevations in the desert — and contains a number of archaeological sites that are perched on canyon walls high above cottonwood trees that provide welcomed shade to the riparian areas in the canyon bottom. Nearby, Bullet Canyon, which intersects with the upper reaches of Grand Gulch, also holds numerous structures, petroglyphs, pictographs, and other artifacts, such as the well-preserved Perfect Kiva — a partly restored kiva, accompanied by several rooms and other smaller structures.
To the west of Cedar Mesa, the Clay Hills, Red House Cliffs, and Mike’s Canyon form the southwest corner of the Bears Ears landscape. This remote and rarely visited area remains largely unstudied by scientists. Tool- and arrowhead-making sites, dwellings, and granaries in the lower reaches of the canyons indicate that they sustained Archaic, Basketmaker, and Ancestral Pueblo cultures. The area’s unforgiving topography, composed of expansive stretches of slickrock periodically interrupted by deep canyons, challenged Latter-day Saint settlers that traveled along the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail and left wheel ruts and other traces of pioneer life. The harsh ecosystem still supports a herd of desert bighorn sheep throughout the year, and in the canyon bottoms, including Mike’s Canyon, intrepid beavers can be found in small areas of riparian habitat. The Clay Hills area contains the first discovery of vertebrate fossils from the Bears Ears region, which was also the first occurrence of a phytosaur identified in Utah.
Standing alone west of Cedar Mesa and adjacent to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Mancos Mesa is likely the largest isolated slickrock mesa in southern Utah. Covering approximately 180 square miles, Mancos Mesa’s roughly triangular shape is bounded by towering cliffs, some reaching more than 1,000 feet high. The entire area is dominated by Navajo Sandstone and is incised with canyons, including Moqui Canyon, a 20-mile canyon with sheer walls rising over 600 feet. The mesa, an ecological island in the sky, contains a relict plant community that supports Native perennial grasses, shrubs, and some cacti. Mancos Mesa also contains archaeological remains dating back 2,000 years and spanning across the Basketmaker II and III and Pueblo I, II, and III periods.
Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its spiritual, cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans. For more than 100 years, and sometimes predating the enactment of the Antiquities Act, Presidents, Members of Congress, Secretaries of the Interior, Tribal Nations, State and local governments, scientists, and local conservationists have understood and championed the need to protect the Bears Ears area. The area contains numerous objects of historic and scientific interest and also includes other resources that contribute to the social and economic well-being of the area’s modern communities as a result of world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, including unparalleled rock climbing available at places like the canyons in Indian Creek; the paradise for hikers, birders, and horseback riders provided in areas like the canyons east of Elk Ridge; and other destinations for hunting, backpacking, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking, that are important to the increasing travel- and tourism-based economy in the region.
WHEREAS, section 320301 of title 54, United States Code (known as the “Antiquities Act”), authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected; and
WHEREAS, Proclamation 9558 of December 28, 2016, designated the Bears Ears National Monument in the State of Utah and reserved approximately 1.35 million acres of Federal lands as the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic and scientific interest declared part of the monument; and
WHEREAS, Proclamation 9681 of December 4, 2017, modified the management direction of the Bears Ears National Monument and modified the boundaries to add approximately 11,200 new acres of Federal lands, and the objects of historic and scientific interest contained therein, and to exclude more than 1.1 million acres of Federal lands from the reservation, including lands containing objects of historic and scientific interest identified as needing protection in Proclamation 9558, such as Valley of the Gods, Hideout Canyon, portions of the San Juan River and Abajo Mountains, genetically distinct populations of Kachina daisy, and the Eucosma navajoensis moth; and
WHEREAS, December 4, 2017, was the first time that a President asserted that the Antiquities Act included the authority to reduce the boundaries of a national monument or remove objects from protection under the Antiquities Act since passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.); and
WHEREAS, the entire Bears Ears landscape is profoundly sacred to sovereign Tribal Nations and indigenous people of the southwest region of the United States; and
WHEREAS, I find that the unique nature of the Bears Ears landscape, and the collection of objects and resources therein, make the entire landscape within the boundaries reserved by this proclamation an object of historic and scientific interest in need of protection under 54 U.S.C. 320301; and
WHEREAS, I find that all the historic and scientific resources identified above and in Proclamation 9558 are objects of historic or scientific interest in need of protection under 54 U.S.C. 320301; and
WHEREAS, I find that there are threats to the objects identified in this proclamation; and
WHEREAS, I find, in the absence of a reservation under the Antiquities Act, the objects identified in this proclamation and in Proclamation 9558 are not adequately protected by otherwise applicable law or administrative designations because neither provide Federal agencies with the specific mandate to ensure proper care and management of the objects, nor do they withdraw the lands from the operation of the public land, mining, and mineral leasing laws; thus a national monument reservation is necessary to protect the objects of historic and scientific interest in the Bears Ears region for current and future generations; and
WHEREAS, I find that the boundaries of the monument reserved by this proclamation represent the smallest area compatible with the protection of the objects of scientific or historic interest as required by the Antiquities Act; and
WHEREAS, it is in the public interest to ensure the preservation, restoration, and protection of the objects of scientific and historic interest on the Bears Ears region, including the entire monument landscape, reserved within the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, as established by this proclamation;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 320301 of title 54, United States Code, hereby proclaim the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558 that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be the Bears Ears National Monument (monument) and, for the purpose of protecting those objects, reserve as part thereof all lands and interests in lands not currently reserved as part of a monument reservation and that are owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation. These reserved Federal lands and interests in lands consist of those lands reserved as part of the Bears Ears National Monument as of December 3, 2017, and the approximately 11,200 acres added by Proclamation 9681, encompassing approximately 1.36 million acres. As a result of the distribution of the objects across the Bears Ears landscape, and additionally and independently, because the landscape itself is an object in need of protection, the boundaries described on the accompanying map are confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic or scientific interest identified above and in Proclamation 9558.
All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, or other disposition under the public land laws or laws applicable to the United States Forest Service (USFS), from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing, other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument.
This proclamation is subject to valid existing rights. If the Federal Government subsequently acquires any lands or interests in lands not currently owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, such lands and interests in lands shall be reserved as a part of the monument, and objects identified above that are situated upon those lands and interests in lands shall be part of the monument, upon acquisition of ownership or control by the Federal Government.
The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior (Secretaries) shall manage the monument through the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), respectively, in accordance with the terms, conditions, and management direction provided by this proclamation and, unless otherwise specifically provided herein, those provided by Proclamation 9558, the latter of which are incorporated herein by reference. The USFS shall manage that portion of the monument within the boundaries of the National Forest System (NFS), and the BLM shall manage the remainder of the monument. The lands administered by the USFS shall be managed as part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The lands administered by the BLM shall be managed as a unit of the National Landscape Conservation System. To the extent any provision of Proclamation 9681 is inconsistent with this proclamation or Proclamation 9558, the terms of this proclamation and Proclamation 9558 shall govern. To further the orderly management of monument lands, the monument will be jointly managed as a single unit consisting of the entire 1.36 million-acre monument.
For purposes of protecting and restoring the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558, the Secretaries shall jointly prepare and maintain a new management plan for the entire monument and shall promulgate such regulations for its management as they deem appropriate. The Secretaries, through the USFS and BLM, shall consult with other Federal land management agencies or agency components in the local area, including the National Park Service, in developing the management plan. In promulgating any management rules and regulations governing the NFS lands within the monument and developing the management plan, the Secretary of Agriculture, through the USFS, shall consult with the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM. The Secretaries shall provide for maximum public involvement in the development of that plan, including consultation with federally recognized Tribes and State and local governments. In the development and implementation of the management plan, the Secretaries shall maximize opportunities, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, for shared resources, operational efficiency, and cooperation.
In recognition of the importance of knowledge of Tribal Nations about these lands and objects and participation in the care and management of the objects identified above, and to ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect expertise and traditional and historical knowledge of Tribal Nations, a Bears Ears Commission (Commission) is reestablished in accordance with the terms, conditions, and obligations set forth in Proclamation 9558 to provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and on management of the entire monument.
To further the protective purposes of the monument, the Secretary of the Interior shall explore entering into a memorandum of understanding with the State of Utah that would set forth terms, pursuant to applicable laws and regulations, for an exchange of land owned by the State of Utah and administered by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration within the boundary of the monument for land of approximately equal value managed by the BLM outside the boundary of the monument. Consolidation of lands within the monument boundary through exchange in this manner provides for the orderly management of public lands and is in the public interest.
The Secretaries shall manage livestock grazing as authorized under existing permits or leases, and subject to appropriate terms and conditions in accordance with existing laws and regulations, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558. Should grazing permits or leases be voluntarily relinquished by existing holders, the Secretaries shall retire from livestock grazing the lands covered by such permits or leases pursuant to the processes of applicable law. Forage shall not be reallocated for livestock grazing purposes unless the Secretaries specifically find that such reallocation will advance the purposes of this proclamation and Proclamation 9558.
Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.
Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of the monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.
If any provision of this proclamation, including its application to a particular parcel of land, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and its application to other parcels of land shall not be affected thereby.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
Columbus Day celebrations in the United States – meant to honor the legacy of the man credited with “discovering” the New World – are almost as old as the nation itself. The earliest known Columbus Day celebration took place on Oct. 12, 1792, on the 300th anniversary of his landing. But since the 1990s, a growing number of states have begun to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day – a holiday meant to honor the culture and history of the people living in the Americas both before and after Columbus’ arrival.
In the following Q&A, Susan C. Faircloth, an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe of North Carolina and professor of education at Colorado State University, explains the history of Indigenous Peoples Day and what it means to American education.
More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia now recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. Those states include Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
How does Indigenous Peoples Day change things?
Indigenous Peoples Day offers an opportunity for educators to rethink how they teach what some have characterized as a “sanitized” story of the arrival of Columbus. This version omits or downplays the devastating impact of Columbus’ arrival on Indigenous peoples. Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to reconcile tensions between these two perspectives.
Yes, the shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day has met resistance from communities across the country. In 2021, parents in Parsippany, New Jersey, protested the local school board’s decision to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day. Among other things, they cited lack of community input, failure to honor the legacy of Italian immigrants and the need for a “more balanced picture of Columbus.” In response, the school board removed the names of all holidays from its calendar. Now the holidays are just referred to as “days off.”
What resources do you recommend for Indigenous Peoples Day?
FromThe High Country News [October 7, 2021] and & the west (Felicity Barringer):
Elizabeth Reese, Stanford Law School’s first Native American professor, discusses the intentional marginalization of tribal legal structures.
This story is co-published with & the West, an independent publication at Stanford University.
Assistant Professor Elizabeth Reese, who is Nambé Pueblo, joined the Stanford Law School faculty as its first Native American member in June 2021. Her new article, published in the Stanford Law Review, analyzes the way United States legal institutions systematically ignores the legal structures created by tribal governments. She recently spoke with Felicity Barringer about why she chose to study these ellipses in legal history, what harm the practice has done and what mainstream legal systems have missed.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Felicity Barringer: Why does your work focus on the way the legal systems of the 574 federally recognized tribes have been ignored?
Elizabeth Reese: I’m from Nambé Pueblo, a small Indian reservation just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I’m home, most of my conduct is governed by the Nambé Pueblo tribal government. Everything from where and how I dump my trash to my right to own a firearm or not is decided—not by the State of New Mexico or the United States federal government—but by my tribal government.
When I enrolled in law school I was told that there are only two types of law in the United States that come from the two kinds of governments we have in our federal system: federal law and state law. Imagine how bizarre this was for me! I’m a citizen of a nation that’s older than almost any other on the continent. I’ve navigated tribal law my entire life, voted regularly in elections, complained about when they changed the speed limit, etc. Then, I show up to law school and everyone acted like the entire legal regime I grew up with doesn’t exist. It was maddening!
Not only was the feeling of invisibility and erasure confusing and insulting, I felt like I was the only one who knew that what was being presented to us was an incomplete picture of the legal system in the United States. As educators we ought to tell the truth, to give our students the full picture of American law. We should find it problematic that we uncritically ignored 574 governments that collectively govern as much land as California.
FB: What price does the country pay for decades of marginalizing the way tribal laws and tribal systems of government have evolved?
ER: I think we all pay a huge price. That comes both from the damage of how we have marginalized tribes and from what we have missed out on by doing so.
A difficult truth I struggled with in my recent article The Other American Law: how — even whether — to raise that tribal law was not marginalized by accident. Part of the colonial project involved making pre-existing government regimes look less worthy than the those that sought to displace them. Tribal governments and their laws were dismissed and delegitimized by the United States and other colonial powers as a part of their work asserting their own superior claims to govern the same territory.
It’s an ugly truth. But it’s one that deeply colors how we see tribal governments and their laws. When most Americans imagine a pre-colonial “tribal government” we think small, familial and primitive. We imagine a “less evolved” version of Western societies that has nothing novel to offer us because our own ancestors have been there and done that already. What we did was equate differences with deficiencies and forget a fundamental truth that we’ve all been human for just as long, simply making different choices. A lot of knowledge was lost or destroyed as colonial powers steamrolled over what they dismissed or were willfully blind to.
And a lot of opportunities to learn from one another never happened as tribal legal ideas or solutions didn’t trickle to an open-minded ear within the United States as they perhaps could have. Tribes, in turn, became incredibly distrustful of outsiders, and justifiably so.
Contemporary tribal governments have certainly changed a great deal since pre-colonial times — so has the United States. So, it is particularly tragic that the United States and tribes often fail to see each other clearly when they’ve both grown and changed so much in a uniquely intertwined way. They share a history now, and have reacted to that history or begun to reflect each other in interesting ways.
FB: Can you explain the difference between tribal law and what legal scholars call “Indian law?”
ER: Yes! This is a key distinction. “Tribal law” is a kind of law that is passed by a tribal government and that applies on their land and to — in varying degrees — the persons on that land. Within the category of “tribal law” are many different tribes’ laws: Navajo Nation law, Cherokee Nation law, Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians law, etc. Just as, within the category of “state law,” there is California law, Michigan law, etc.
By contrast, “Indian law” is an academic field that includes both “tribal law” and all other law that has to do with Indians, most importantly, the body of federal laws that determine how much power and what kinds of powers tribal governments have. We call that body of federal law, “Federal Indian law.”
Unfortunately, at most U.S. law schools, if they have a class on “Indian law” at all, they provide either just a “Federal Indian law” class or it called “Indian law” that is almost entirely devoted to Federal Indian law. Tribal law, the law actually made by Indians, is ignored in favor of a focus on U.S. federal court decisions and congressional statutes that are, at best, the result of staunch Indian advocacy from the wings or, at worst, the decisions justifying colonialism itself.
Part of my work is a call to pay more attention to what I think of as the real Indian law.
FB: How is the work of tribal legal systems treated in federal, state and local courts? Do any court decisions treat tribal laws with the kind of attention given to state and local laws? Do non-tribal courts address issues that tribal laws raise?
ER: Tribal law is treated quite terribly, if it’s given the time of day in state or federal courts. This is particularly disheartening when state and federal courts have such a developed system for when, how, and why to defer to one another.
There’s an entire law school class that deals in large part with state law making an appearance in federal courts in particularly tricky instances. When that happens, federal courts will often wait to let a state court weigh in or defer to their decisions on a question.
By contrast, vital questions of tribal law — such as what is essential to the political integrity, health or welfare of the tribe to function as a self-governing entity — are decided by federal courts on their own, without pausing to ask if they are the most qualified court.
State and federal courts ought to be asking when deference to tribal courts is necessary, but many often treat an issue of tribal law — say whether a tribal law regulating reservation hunting is an important or necessary part of their self-governing powers — as if it is a fact of a case that a private party proved or didn’t using evidence they can submit to the court. This is a question about what is important to tribe’s legal and political system — who they are and what is at the heart of their government. We would never think of a question like “is free speech important to the United States’ political structure” as something private parties would litigate over and resolve by submitting evidence, let alone as something a judge from outside the United States would be qualified to decide for the United States without its participation. Any answer that foreign judge gave would seem, well, ridiculous — because it would be. If anyone can answer that question, it’s the United States itself.
FB: Why does Congress have no Native members who represent their tribes, rather than jurisdictions in their home state? The 2020 census shows an unprecedented 10-year increase in the combined population of Native Americans and Native Alaskans: 9.7 million, up from 5.2 million a decade ago. Now these groups account for 2.9% of the national population. Could a Native voting bloc be developed across existing jurisdictional lines?
ER: Good question! Why aren’t there at least 574 Congressmen representing each of the Indian tribes just like there are at least three representing each of the 50 states? I think the answer lies in the same colonial ugliness we discussed above, but not entirely. Remember that tribal governments were powerful allies and enemies throughout the history of the burgeoning United States.
It wasn’t a foregone conclusion at all that these governments would be swept aside instead of reorganized into one of the states as many other government entities ultimately were. Some tribes even received promises regarding representation within the United States’ political system that are now being finally honored. The Cherokee Nation, for example, bargained for a delegate in Congress in several of their treaties. Just in 2019 Kim Teehee was selected to serve as their first delegate, and they are waiting on Congress to officially seat her. She will, however, not be a voting member.
But even if the United States seats the Cherokee delegate they promised, one of the most amazing things happening with Indian representation right now is how tribes have managed to structure themselves and their services around tribal citizenship status rather than geography. Tribal citizens now live across the country, not just on their reservations or even ancestral home bases. Unlike the other U.S. jurisdictions, most tribal citizens do not lose the right to politically participate or receive certain services because they relocated.
Tribes are very creative, unique political entities; they are transcending a lot of the current physical boundaries we currently use to delineate political rights and government powers.
FB: How have Indian nations included expatriates in their electorates? Your article discusses an Indian tribes solution to expatriate voting in comparison to the U.S. approach to a voting population that includes 3 million people who live abroad, either serving in the military or choosing to live in another country.
ER: This question follows nicely from my prior discussion. In troubleshooting how to encourage political participation from citizens that don’t live on the reservation anymore, one tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma, decided to restructure their legislature so that their representatives would be composed of districts based on where they lived now, not where they last lived within the tribe’s territory.
That meant districts for far flung parts of the world, but that created community for the Citizen Potawatomi of New England, the Plains, or the Deep South. And it worked! Tribal political participation went up! Interestingly, the population of millions of American expats also vote at a much lower rate than we’d expect. The United States could try what the Potawatomi did and give expats their own political district of some sort; one that represented the unique interests of the predominately military and highly educated expat population.
FB: The state of Oklahoma recently petitioned the Supreme Court to narrow its 2020 McGirt decision, which effectively declared much of eastern Oklahoma to be Indian territory subject to tribal laws. Why is this such a big issue for the state? Will the McGirt decision prompt the legal world to pay more attention to tribal law?
ER: There was a lot of fear and misunderstanding about the McGirt decision. The bottom line: very little, if anything, would likely change for non-Indian Oklahomans since tribal law does not apply to non-Indian owned land or non-Indian persons’ conduct, even within the boundaries of a reservation, except in very rare circumstances.
The idea, however, that even if tribes were in complete control that would be somehow an automatic disaster is something we ought to push back against. Tribal governments are governments just like any other. They can be effective, and they can be flawed. But tribal governments should not be feared because they are unknown.
This decision does bring the possibility of tribal rule out of the shadows and, hopefully, in a way that normalizes it to Oklahomans rather than sensationalizing it. As more and more Oklahomans who are also tribal citizens opt into tribal courts and other services I think the visibility and acceptance of the tribes will only increase.
When I gave a talk about tribal law last year, I included PowerPoint slides with photos of tribal police cars, tribal court judges, tribal legislative chambers, tribal building permits, tribal census documents, tribal tax offices, tribal water facilities, etc. A colleague remarked afterwards that even though I’d talked to him many times about tribal law, it was entirely different seeing those images. It made clear to him in an instant how very real tribal governments are and how — just as I had said many times — they are just governments. As more Oklahomans see tribes for themselves, I have no doubt they will have the same reaction.
FB: What steps should be taken to normalize the inclusion of tribal law and tribal governmental systems in the legal landscape of courts in the United States?
ER: A huge step we can all take is to be more aware of the language that we all use to describe not just tribal governments, but Native people generally. We are a racial and demographic group, sure, but that has little real meaning. My ancestors were Indigenous people in New Spain, in Mexico, and now we are Native Americans—but the whole time were the people of Nambe Pueblo people. Recognizing Native are people not a monolith, but citizens of hundreds of distinct political entities within the United States in how we discuss them would go a long way to normalizing their recognition more broadly as such.
There is a lot of unintentional erasure that happens because we often don’t use the right words to discuss Native people or their governments. A tip that I recommend is asking yourself if you substituted in more familiar group’s name in sentence, would it still make sense? If I want to use “Native American” or “American Indian,” I need to remember that I’m using a continent-wide term with as little real meaning for people’s identity or political groupings as other continent-wide terms like “Asian” or “European.”
Say you want to know about Native American religion and start off thinking you want to ask: “What is Native American religion?” If you instead swap in a more familiar group’s word and ask, “What is European religion?” the error is immediately apparent. There is no single European religion, just as there is no Native religion. So, you’d know to rephrase into something like “How many religions are there in Europe?” or “What is the most popular religion in Europe?”
Felicity Barringer is the editor and lead writer for & the West, an independent publication based at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West. At The New York Times for three decades, she covered such beats as national environmental news and the United Nations, and worked as a correspondent in Moscow. Her career began at The Bergen Record; she also worked at The Washington Post for nine years.
With the news this week regarding the approval by the Utah Division of Water Rights for applications to deliver water to Farmington Bay of Great Salt Lake via the Jordan River, Dave Merritt former Board President of the Colorado River Water Conservation District forwarded a link to a New York Times article concerning a very different problem in 1987, that is, the Great Salt Lake was too full. From article (Thomas J. Knudson):
About the Archive
This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.
Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.
In the 1870’s, the Mormon leader Brigham Young was so concerned about the threat to farmland from the rising level of the Great Salt Lake that he dreamed of pumping excess water out onto the desert, but the idea was never accomplished.
Today, more than a century later, Brigham Young’s dream was realized when Gov. Norman H. Bangerter of Utah helped start the first of three giant pumps that will pull water out of the Great Salt Lake, now at the highest level in recorded history. The water will be dumped onto the Bonneville salt flats to the west, creating a smaller version of the Great Salt Lake that will cover 500 square miles, roughly 22 times the size of Manhattan.
The project, completed under harsh, desert conditions at breakneak speed, seeks to control a lake whose slowly rising waters have flooded highways, railroads, homes and businesses, causing some fatalities and an estimated $200 million in damage over the last five years.
“This is a project we have long waited for,” Governor Bangerter said. “We think Utah will now be in control of its destiny.”
Project Being Questioned
The $60 million West Desert Pumping Project is one of the most ambitious and conflict-ridden in Utah history. And now, just as the pumps are being turned on, the cycle of wet weather that caused the flooding is passing. Many wonder if the state is spending $60 million to solve a problem that nature would have repaired free of charge.
“If the West goes into a dry cycle and the lake starts to recede naturally, the state will look foolish,” said Tony Willardson, associate director of the Western States Water Council here. “It will look like they spent a lot of money they didn’t need to.”
But Utah officials said the rising water left them little choice but to act. ”Everybody says let Mother Nature take her course, but she has already created $200 million in damage,” said W. James Palmer, an engineer with the Utah Department of Natural Resources who is coordinator of the pumping project. ”That’s a little bit hard to swallow. You can’t just keep backing away and backing away.
”I don’t know anyone who can tell me what the weather is going to do. If precipitation remains high, this is the only way possible to exercise any control over the lake.”
Situated on the barren and almost unpopulated northwest shore of the lake about 100 miles from Salt Lake City, the pumping station is a monument to the Mormon spirit of enterprise.
Every bolt, bucket of concrete and load of steel had to be hauled across 30 miles of open desert, through an Air Force bombing range and then down a narrow service road for 10 miles to the site. A natural gas line 37 miles long was installed. A canal was carved, up to 60 feet deep, through four miles of rock, sand and soil.
The three 16-cylinder engines that power the pumps are 27 feet long, and 17 feet high and weigh 81 tons each. The pumps, with propellers 10 feet in diameter, will lift water 15 feet out of the lake, up vertical chambers at a rate of 1.3 million gallons a minute, and spill it out into the canal.
”A project of this magnitude usually takes 18 to 24 months to complete,” said Mr. Palmer. ”We did it in nine-and-a-half months, because we just got to get rid of the water. Each day the lake sets a new record level.”
In the first year the pumping is expected to reduce the level of the 2,400-square-mile lake by as much as 16 inches, a process that could be likened to trying to drain a swimming pool with a soda straw. Fed by several major rivers, and containing no outlet, the lake has risen more than 12 feet since 1982. Engineers are hoping to lower the lake from 4,212 to 4,208 feet above sea level, the point at which the most serious flooding is expected to subside.
That is about $15 million a foot, a seemingly expensive solution, but one that officials said was necessary to prevent further destruction to Interstate 80, the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads and various lakefront enterprises. The project is expected to take three to four years.
Fog and Traffic Problems
It is, by anyone’s measure, a gargantuan task. The broad, shallow lake being created will be about one-fifth the size of the Great Salt Lake itself, and it is expected to generate huge banks of fog that could create traffic problems along the east front of the Wasatch Range, 90 miles away, and delays at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
The new lake will even have a name – West Pond – but it will be no sportsman’s paradise; it will be no more than 2 1/2 feet deep and heavily laden with salt. “There’s virtually nothing out there, maybe a few lizards and one or two rabbits,” said Mr. Palmer. “It will probably be nice to look at, but that’s about all.”
The key to the whole operation is evaporation. “The principle is very simple,” Mr. Palmer. “Evaporation is directly related to surface area. By increasing the surface area, we are increasing the evaporation.”
After months of preparation, the mood here today was one of gritty determination. “We’re not exactly jumping up and down because we get to do this,” said Mr. Palmer. “This is a project we had to do.”
Brigham Young felt that same way more than a hundred years ago. But after years of looking for a way to lower the Great Salt Lake, he eventually watched the water level recede naturally with the onset of drier weather. “He’s probably up there looking down on us right now,” said Mr. Palmer, “and saying good luck, suckers.”
Click here to access the report from Nature (Nathan J. Steiger, Jason E. Smerdon, Richard Seager, A. Park Williams & Arianna M. Varuolo-Clarke. Here’s the abstract:
Geological evidence from the last millennium indicates that multidecadal megadroughts may have occurred simultaneously in California and Patagonia at least once. However, it is unclear whether or not megadroughts were common in South America, whether or not simultaneous megadroughts in North and South America occurred repeatedly, and what would cause their simultaneous occurrence. Here we use a data-assimilation-based global hydroclimate reconstruction, which integrates palaeoclimate records with constraints from a climate model, to show that there were about a dozen megadroughts in the South American Southwest over the last millennium. Using dynamical variables from the hydroclimate reconstruction, we show that these megadroughts were driven by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). We also find that North American Southwest and South American Southwest megadroughts have occurred simultaneously more often than expected by chance. These coincident megadroughts were driven by an increased frequency of cold ENSO states relative to the last millennium-average frequency. Our results establish the substantial risk that exists for ENSO-driven, coupled megadroughts in two critical agricultural regions.
Here’s the release from NOAA (Monica Allen and Susan Ryan):
NOAA and Saildrone are collecting scientific data from inside Hurricane Sam
Saildrone Inc. and the NOAA have released the first video footage gathered by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from inside a major hurricane barreling across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 was directed into the midst of Hurricane Sam, a category 4 hurricane, which is currently on a path that fortunately will miss the U.S. east coast. SD1045 is battling 50 foot waves and winds of over 120 mph to collect critical scientific data and, in the process, is giving us a completely new view of one of earth’s most destructive forces.
Equipped with a specially designed “hurricane wing,” enabling it to operate in extreme wind conditions, SD 1045 is braving Hurricane Sam in the open ocean, collecting real-time observations for numerical hurricane prediction models, which are expected to yield new insights into how large and destructive tropical cyclones grow and intensify.
SD 1045 is one of a fleet of five ‘hurricane’ Saildrones that have been operating in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, gathering data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes. This knowledge is critical to improving storm forecasting and is expected to reduce loss of human life by allowing better preparedness in coastal communities.
“Saildrone is going where no research vessel has ever ventured, sailing right into the eye of the hurricane, gathering data that will transform our understanding of these powerful storms,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO. “After conquering the Arctic and Southern Ocean, hurricanes were the last frontier for Saildrone survivability. We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on earth.”
The Saildrones provide data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Saildrone’s partners in this mission.
“Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” said Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist. “Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier.”
Here’s the release from CU Boulder Today (Kelsey Simpkins):
A specific wavelength of ultraviolet (UV) light is not only extremely effective at killing the virus which causes COVID-19, but is also safer for use in public spaces, finds new CU Boulder research.
The study, published this month in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is the first to comprehensively analyze the effects of different wavelengths of UV light on SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses, including the only wavelength safer for living beings to be exposed to without protection.
The findings, which the authors refer to as a “game changer” for UV light use, could lead to new affordable, safe and highly effective systems for reducing viral spread in crowded public spaces like airports and concert venues.
“Of almost every pathogen we have ever studied, this virus is one of the easiest, by far, to kill with UV light,” said senior author Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering. “It takes a very low dose. This indicates that UV technology could be a really good solution for protecting public spaces.”
UV light is naturally emitted by the sun, and most forms are harmful to living beings—as well as microorganisms, like viruses. This light can get absorbed by the genome of an organism, tie knots in it and prevent it from reproducing. These harmful wavelengths from the sun, however, are filtered out by the ozone layer before they reach the surface of the earth.
Some common products, like fluorescent tube lamps, use human-engineered UV light, but a white phosphorous coating on the inside protects people from the UV rays.
“When we take that coating off, we can emit those wavelengths, and they can be harmful for our skin and our eyes—but they can also kill pathogens,” said Linden.
Hospitals already use UV light technology to disinfect surfaces in spaces when there are no people in them, utilizing robots which can shine UV light in operating and patient rooms between uses.
And many gadgets on the market today clean everything from cell phones to water bottles with UV light. But safety protocols are still being developed by the FDA and EPA. Linden cautions against using any personal or “germicidal” devices in which a person is exposed to UV light.
The new findings are unique, he said, because they hit the sweet spot between UV light that is relatively safe for humans and harmful for viruses, especially the one that causes COVID-19.
“This can be a game changer for the public use of UV light in indoor spaces,” said Linden.
Death by exposure
For the study, Linden and his team compared different UV wavelengths side-by-side using standardized methods developed across the UV light industry.
“We thought, let’s come together and make a definitive statement on what UV exposure is required to kill off SARS-CoV-2,” said Linden. “We wanted to make sure that if UV light is being used to control disease, you’re delivering the right dose that’s protective of human health and human skin, but also going to be killing off these pathogens.”
The opportunity to do this kind of work is rare, as there are extremely rigorous safety standards required to work with SARS-CoV-2. So Linden and Ben Ma, postdoctoral researcher in Linden’s research group, collaborated with virologist Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, at a lab cleared to work with the virus and its variants.
The researchers found that while the virus was quite susceptible to UV light in general, a specific wavelength of Far ultraviolet-C, at 222 nanometers, was particularly effective. Created by what’s known as a krypton chloride excimer lamp, fueled by molecules moving between different states of energy, this wavelength is very high energy. Therefore, it’s able to inflict greater viral protein and nucleic acid damage to the virus compared to other UV-C devices, as well as be blocked by the very top layers of human skin and eyes—meaning that it has limited to no detrimental health effects at doses that are capable of killing off viruses.
“Not only is it safe, it’s also the most effective,” said Linden.
The role of UV disinfection today
UV light in various forms has been used widely since the early 20th century to disinfect water, air and surfaces. As early as the 1940s, it was used to reduce the transmission of tuberculosis in hospitals and classrooms, by shining the light at the ceiling to disinfect air as it circulated throughout the room. Today, it’s used not only in hospitals, but in some public bathrooms and airplanes when there are no people in those spaces.
In a recent White Paper published by the International UV Association, “Far UV-C Radiation: Current State-of Knowledge,” which accompanies the new study, Linden and co-authors argue that this safer wavelength of Far UV-C light could serve as a key mitigation measure against the current and future pandemics, in addition to improved ventilation, mask wearing and vaccination.
Linden imagines systems that could either cycle on and off in indoor spaces to routinely clean the air and surfaces, or create an ongoing, invisible barrier between teachers and students, customers and service workers, and people in spaces where social distancing is not possible, to disinfect the air.
UV light disinfection can even rival the positive effects of improved indoor ventilation by providing the equivalent protection of increased air changes per hour within a room. It’s also much cheaper to install UV lights than to upgrade an entire HVAC system.
“There is an opportunity here to save money and energy while protecting public health in the same way. It’s really exciting,” said Linden.
Additional authors on this publication include: Ben Ma of CU Boulder; Patricia Gundy and Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona; and Mark Sobsey of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
FromThe Ag Journal (Candace Krebs) via The La Junta Tribune-Democrat:
As seasonal farmers markets move into the final stretch, the produce is abundant, even if water availability in some cases curtailed production early on.
A sustained period of warm, dry days have been good for the peppers, tomatoes, melons and pumpkins, one La Junta area farmer said…
Every summer for the past 38 years, there’s been a Hanagan on this street next to the park selling produce, Hanagan said, serving multiple generations. The Old Colorado City market in Colorado Springs is one of the oldest in the state.
Frank Schmidt, owner of Schmidt Apiaries and the long-time operator of the market, said the venue was thriving. Even so, over the years it has become harder to retain actual farmers to anchor the market, while artisans and crafters proliferate, he said.
Schmidt is grateful to have around five or six farms still bringing produce, but he’s lost a few long-time produce vendors in recent years. Lusk Farms, of Rocky Ford, switched from growing produce to full-time hay production. Lippis Farm, of Florence, quit largely in frustration over the time, effort and expense involved in maintaining organic certification…
Farming is getting tougher, and most farmers feel like agriculture, in general, is under attack from a combination of rising costs, cumbersome regulations and controversial voter petitions backed by special interest groups, [Chuck] Hanagan said…
That’s why the agriculture community was so alarmed by the proposed PAUSE Act, short for Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering, which would have banned routine animal husbandry practices and required animals to live out a certain amount of their lives before slaughter, among other provisions.
It was struck down on legal grounds before ever being placed on the ballot, but it would have prohibited preg-checking and artificial insemination, practices Hanagan said are fundamental to good agricultural management, by conflating them with deviant sex acts…
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is in the process of drafting the new bill, which is due for final adoption no later than Jan. 31. It is aimed at addressing overtime wages for farm workers and making sure they have access to key service providers and heat stress protections…
A Colorado Agricultural Labor Survey conducted by Colorado State University last year found that among 213 respondents, the median wage range was $13-$15 per hour, consistent with the most recent averages reported by the National Agricultural Statistics Service Farm Labor Survey…
Farms such as Hanagan’s that bring in Mexican farmworkers through the federal H2A program are already required to provide housing, utilities and transportation, he said.
“Farmers are very good with managing natural resources because they have to be,” he said. “People think of that as soil and water, but just as important — and maybe more important — is their labor. You have to take care of that or you’re not going to be successful.”
Hanagan said his family has worked with some of the same employees from south of the border for 30 or 40 years, which creates mutual trust and allows for a great deal of flexibility in how they do their jobs.
FromThe High Country News [September 21, 2021] (Jonathan Thompson):
Late on the hot and sunny morning of July 13, 2021, a distribution troubleman for Pacific Gas & Electric drove up the Feather River Canyon in Northern California to check out a possibly blown fuse on one of the utility’s lines. His route took him past the blackened skeletons of trees burned by the Camp Fire in 2018. Sparked by PG&E’s equipment, it raged through the town of Paradise, killing at least 86 people.
The troubleman — delayed by roadwork — reached the location of the tripped fuse, near the Cresta Dam, at 4:40 p.m. Sure enough, two of the three fuses on the Buck Line had been tripped. As his truck’s cherry-picker bucket lifted him up to the fuses, he suddenly noticed a fire, estimated at about 600 square feet in size. There was a Douglas fir leaning against the line nearby.
He shut off the third fuse, killing power to the system, then descended to the ground to call dispatch, emptying first one, then another extinguisher on the flames, to no avail. Shortly thereafter Cal Fire aircraft arrived, followed by a ground crew. But the grass, shrubs and trees were simply too dry — baked by the kiln-like combination of drought and hot temperatures — and the flames swiftly got away from them, crawling and then exploding up the canyon’s slopes.
By the next day, the 600-square-foot blaze had grown to 600 acres and was spreading north and east at a rate of thousands of acres per day. It joined up with the 2,000-acre Fly Fire — which may have been started by a white fir toppling onto PG&E electrical equipment — and leveled the town of Greenville, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. The pyrocumulonimbus plume it spawned rose thousands of feet into the air and sent smoke wafting across the West, affecting the air quality of communities as far away as Colorado. More than six weeks after it started, in early September, the Dixie Fire was still raging, having burned more than 800,000 acres of forest and hundreds of structures. And it was just one of a dozen or so blazes tearing across the state and the region.
PG&E’s equipment, with some help from that errant Douglas fir, may have provided the spark that ignited California’s second-largest fire on record — the exact cause is still under investigation — but climate change clearly fueled it and numerous other recent megafires, from last year’s record-breaking conflagrations in Colorado, to this summer’s destructive blazes in Montana and Oregon. The entire West has been heating up significantly over the past century, exacerbating the effects of two decades of drought and priming dry forests to burn more intensely than ever before.
Number of firefighters on the frontlines of 16 major California fires as of Sept. 1.
Acres burned in California this year as of Sept. 1.
Total acreage of 86 large fires burning across the Western U.S. as of Sept. 1.
Date on which the U.S. Forest Service closed all national forests in California due to extreme wildfire hazard.
80 degrees Fahrenheit
California’s average temperature for July 2021, the hottest July ever for the state as well as for Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Acres of forest in California’s carbon offset program that had been burned in wildfires this year as of Aug. 24.
Number of structures destroyed by the Dixie Fire as of Sept. 1, when it had reached a size of 844,801 acres, making it the second-largest fire in California history.
1.03 million acres
Size of the largest fire in California history — the August Complex — which burned in the northern part of the state in 2020.
Number of structures destroyed by the Caldor Fire as of Sept. 1; an additional 35,000 structures were threatened.
Utility ignitions, payouts, plunges
Some of the most destructive fires in California history were ignited by electrical utility equipment, and Northern California’s Pacific Gas & Electric is one of the worst offenders in this regard.
Minimum number of the 20 most destructive fires ignited by electrical equipment in California.
Minimum number of fatalities resulting from California fires sparked by electrical equipment.
Number of counts of manslaughter PG&E pled guilty to for its role in starting the 2018 Camp Fire, which leveled the town of Paradise. The official death toll was 86, but an investigation by the Chico Enterprise-Record found an additional 50 deaths indirectly linked to the fire.
Amount of a PG&E fund — half of it made up of company stock — for compensating victims of past fires caused by the utility’s equipment.
Amount by which the value of the stock in the compensation fund dropped after PG&E indicated it may have ignited the Dixie Fire this year.
$15 billion to $20 billion
Estimated cost of PG&E’s project to bury 10,000 miles of powerlines to reduce wildfire hazard.
Infographic design: Luna Anna Archey/High Country News
Sources: Cal Fire, National Interagency Fire Center, Documents from the U.S. District Court Northern District Of California, PG&E, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
We welcome reader letters. Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of Sagebrush Empire: How a Remote Utah County Became the Battlefront of American Public Lands. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the “Science Moab Podcast” about my views on Indigenous Archaeology as well as on-going conservation work in Southeastern Utah. This interview was included as a part of the Moab Festival of Science. You can hear the interview here–>https://sciencemoab.org/perspectives-from-a-hopi-archaeologist/ The interview was followed by a live-stream Q & […]
The Department of the Interior plays a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.
Our mandate from President Biden is clear: we must address the four intersecting challenges of COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
We have no time to waste in taking action to protect public lands, the environment and Americans’ lives and futures. Interior is ready to take the bold action desperately needed to ensure all communities — including communities of color and urban, rural, and Indigenous communities — benefit from an aggressive and whole-of-government response.
To meet the scope of our challenges and the multiple, overlapping crises, we are:
Identifying steps to accelerate responsible development of renewable energy on public lands and waters. We are investing in climate research and environmental innovation to incentivize the rapid deployment of clean energy solutions, while reviewing existing programs to restore balance on America’s public lands and waters to benefit current and future generations.
Strengthening the government-to-government relationship with sovereign Tribal Nations. We understand that Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, as well as honoring the federal trust responsibility to Tribal Nations, must be the cornerstones of federal Indian policy.
Making investments to support the Administration’s goal of creating millions of family-supporting and union jobs. This includes establishing a new Climate Conservation Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.
Working to conserve at least 30% each of our lands and waters by the year 2030. We will work to protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates and help leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. This relies on support for local, state, private, and Tribally-led nature conservation and restoration efforts that are underway across America.
Centering equity and environmental justice. The impacts of the multiple crises in the United States are not evenly distributed in our society. Communities of color, low-income families, and rural and Indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites. At every step of the way, Interior will engage diverse stakeholders across the country, as well as conduct formal consultation with Tribes in recognition of the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.
George Frayne, who led the country-rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, died today (September 26, 2021), at age 77. The announcement of his passing was posted on his Facebook page by his wife, Sue Casanova…
The eight-piece band, with Frayne on keyboards and as one of their many vocalists, was formed in 1967, and brilliantly fused country, rockabilly, western swing, R&B and vintage rock ’n’ roll.
The news of his death arrived three days after another post from his wife asked, “Can you send George some brilliantly good energy and love right now?”
The announcement of his death was written in the form of a poem:
Early this morning
As I lay my head upon his shoulder
George’s soul took to flight
I am heartbroken and weary
And I know you are too
Thank you so much for all the love you gave
And the stories you shared
We are working on 2 big gatherings
On both the east and west coast
(The Island and the Bay Area)
To celebrate the Old Commander’s phenomenal life
And to benefit musicians in need.
The band’s name was inspired by 1950s film serials featuring the character Commando Kody and from a feature version of an earlier serial, King of the Rocket Men, released under the title Lost Planet Airmen.
The Cody band’s classic lineup, whose members came from such far-flung locales as Alabama, California, Connecticut, Michigan, West Virginia, Idaho and New York, also featured Billy C. Farlow (harmonica, vocals), John Tichy (guitar, vocals), Bill Kirchen (guitar, vocals), Andy Stein (saxophone, fiddle), “Buffalo” Bruce Barlow (bass guitar), Lance Dickerson (drums), and Steve “The West Virginia Creeper” Davis, followed by Bobby Black (pedal steel guitar).
They toured non-stop to a legion of dedicated fans and recorded seven studio albums, preferring a no-frills, back-to-basics approach. Their 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, released by the Paramount label, included their sole Top 40 hit, a cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
Do masks work? And if so, should you reach for an N95, a surgical mask, a cloth mask or a gaiter?
Over the past year and a half, researchers have produced a lot of laboratory, model-based and observational evidence on the effectiveness of masks. For many people it has understandably been hard to keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
Recently, I was part of the largest randomized controlled trial to date testing the effectiveness of mask-wearing. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but has been well received by the medical community. What we found provides gold-standard evidence that confirms previous research: Wearing masks, particularly surgical masks, prevents COVID-19.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the focus has been on masks as a way of preventing infected persons from contaminating the air around them – called source control. Recent laboratory evidence supports this idea. In April 2020, researchers showed that people infected with a coronavirus – but not SARS-CoV-2 – exhaled less coronavirus RNA into the air around them if they wore a mask. A number of additional laboratory studies have also supported the efficacy of masks.
From November 2020 to April 2021, my colleagues Jason Abaluck, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Stephen P. Luby, Ashley Styczynski and I – in close collaboration with partners in the Bangladeshi government and the research nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action – conducted a large-scale randomized controlled trial on masking in Bangladesh. Our goals were to learn the best ways to increase mask-wearing without a mandate, understand the effect of mask-wearing on COVID-19, and compare cloth masks and surgical masks.
The study involved 341,126 adults in 600 villages in rural Bangladesh. In 300 villages we did not promote masks, and people continued wearing masks, or not, as they had before. In 200 villages we promoted the use of surgical masks, and in 100 villages we promoted cloth masks, testing a number of different outreach strategies in each group.
Over the course of eight weeks, our team distributed free masks to each adult in the mask groups at their homes, provided information about the risks of COVID-19 and the value of mask-wearing. We also worked with community and religious leaders to model and promote mask-wearing and hired staff to walk around the village and politely ask people who were not wearing a mask to put one on. Plainclothes staff recorded whether people wore masks properly over their mouth and nose, improperly or not at all.
Both five weeks and nine weeks after starting the study, we collected data from all adults on symptoms of COVID-19 during the study period. If a person reported any symptoms of COVID-19, we took and tested a blood sample for evidence of infection.
Mask-wearing reduced COVID-19
The first question my colleagues and I needed to answer was whether our efforts led to increased mask-wearing. Mask usage more than tripled, from 13% in the group that wasn’t given masks to 42% in the group that was. Interestingly, physical distancing also increased by 5% in the villages where we promoted masks.
In the 300 villages where we distributed any type of mask, we saw a 9% reduction in COVID-19 compared with villages where we did not promote masks. Because of the small number of villages where we promoted cloth masks, we were not able to tell whether cloth or surgical masks were better at reducing COVID-19.
We did have a large enough sample size to determine that in villages where we distributed surgical masks, COVID-19 fell by 12%. In those villages COVID-19 fell by 35% for people 60 years and older and 23% for people 50-60 years old. When looking at COVID-19-like symptoms we found that both surgical and cloth masks resulted in a 12% reduction.
The body of evidence supports masks
Before this study there was a lack of gold-standard evidence on the effectiveness of masks to reduce COVID-19 in daily life. Our study provides strong real-world evidence that surgical masks reduce COVID-19, particularly for older adults who face higher rates of death and disability if they get infected.
Policymakers and public health officials now have evidence from laboratories, models, observations and real-world trials that support mask-wearing to reduce respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Given that COVID-19 can so easily spread from person to person, if more people wear masks the benefits increase.
So next time you are wondering if you should wear a mask, the answer is yes. Cloth masks are likely better than nothing, but high-quality surgical masks or masks with even higher filtration efficiency and better fit – such as KF94s, KN95s and N95s – are the most effective at preventing COVID-19.
I’m working remotely today so I rode to two breakfast stations near my home. First up was the station at 25th and Sheridan in Edgewater, then around Sloans Lake.
On the way home I stopped at the station near Leroy’s Bagels on W. 29th Avenue. I ran into a colleague that works for Denver Water so the conversation moved from Bike to Work, through water demand analysis, and water quality — then back to our bicycles.
I hope you had a chance to celebrate the cool sunny morning on your bicycle. There are many events this afternoon and evening to help get the good bicycle feelings going.
An internal Facebook report found that the social media platform’s algorithms – the rules its computers follow in deciding the content that you see – enabled disinformation campaigns based in Eastern Europe to reach nearly half of all Americans in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, according to a report in Technology Review.
The campaigns produced the most popular pages for Christian and Black American content, and overall reached 140 million U.S. users per month. Seventy-five percent of the people exposed to the content hadn’t followed any of the pages. People saw the content because Facebook’s content-recommendation system put it into their news feeds.
Social media platforms rely heavily on people’s behavior to decide on the content that you see. In particular, they watch for content that people respond to or “engage” with by liking, commenting and sharing. Troll farms, organizations that spread provocative content, exploit this by copying high-engagement content and posting it as their own.
As a computer scientist who studies the ways large numbers of people interact using technology, I understand the logic of using the wisdom of the crowds in these algorithms. I also see substantial pitfalls in how the social media companies do so in practice.
Throughout millions of years of evolution, these principles have been coded into the human brain in the form of cognitive biases that come with names like familiarity, mere exposure and bandwagon effect. If everyone starts running, you should also start running; maybe someone saw a lion coming and running could save your life. You may not know why, but it’s wiser to ask questions later.
Your brain picks up clues from the environment – including your peers – and uses simple rules to quickly translate those signals into decisions: Go with the winner, follow the majority, copy your neighbor. These rules work remarkably well in typical situations because they are based on sound assumptions. For example, they assume that people often act rationally, it is unlikely that many are wrong, the past predicts the future, and so on.
Technology allows people to access signals from much larger numbers of other people, most of whom they do not know. Artificial intelligence applications make heavy use of these popularity or “engagement” signals, from selecting search engine results to recommending music and videos, and from suggesting friends to ranking posts on news feeds.
Not everything viral deserves to be
Our research shows that virtually all web technology platforms, such as social media and news recommendation systems, have a strong popularity bias. When applications are driven by cues like engagement rather than explicit search engine queries, popularity bias can lead to harmful unintended consequences.
Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok rely heavily on AI algorithms to rank and recommend content. These algorithms take as input what you like, comment on and share – in other words, content you engage with. The goal of the algorithms is to maximize engagement by finding out what people like and ranking it at the top of their feeds.
On the surface this seems reasonable. If people like credible news, expert opinions and fun videos, these algorithms should identify such high-quality content. But the wisdom of the crowds makes a key assumption here: that recommending what is popular will help high-quality content “bubble up.”
We tested this assumption by studying an algorithm that ranks items using a mix of quality and popularity. We found that in general, popularity bias is more likely to lower the overall quality of content. The reason is that engagement is not a reliable indicator of quality when few people have been exposed to an item. In these cases, engagement generates a noisy signal, and the algorithm is likely to amplify this initial noise. Once the popularity of a low-quality item is large enough, it will keep getting amplified.
Algorithms aren’t the only thing affected by engagement bias – it can affect people too. Evidence shows that information is transmitted via “complex contagion,” meaning the more times people are exposed to an idea online, the more likely they are to adopt and reshare it. When social media tells people an item is going viral, their cognitive biases kick in and translate into the irresistible urge to pay attention to it and share it.
We recently ran an experiment using a news literacy app called Fakey. It is a game developed by our lab, which simulates a news feed like those of Facebook and Twitter. Players see a mix of current articles from fake news, junk science, hyperpartisan and conspiratorial sources, as well as mainstream sources. They get points for sharing or liking news from reliable sources and for flagging low-credibility articles for fact-checking.
The wisdom of the crowds fails because it is built on the false assumption that the crowd is made up of diverse, independent sources. There may be several reasons this is not the case.
First, because of people’s tendency to associate with similar people, their online neighborhoods are not very diverse. The ease with which social media users can unfriend those with whom they disagree pushes people into homogeneous communities, often referred to as echo chambers.
Second, because many people’s friends are friends of one another, they influence one another. A famous experiment demonstrated that knowing what music your friends like affects your own stated preferences. Your social desire to conform distorts your independent judgment.
Third, popularity signals can be gamed. Over the years, search engines have developed sophisticated techniques to counter so-called “link farms” and other schemes to manipulate search algorithms. Social media platforms, on the other hand, are just beginning to learn about their own vulnerabilities.
A different, preventive approach would be to add friction. In other words, to slow down the process of spreading information. High-frequency behaviors such as automated liking and sharing could be inhibited by CAPTCHA tests or fees. Not only would this decrease opportunities for manipulation, but with less information people would be able to pay more attention to what they see. It would leave less room for engagement bias to affect people’s decisions.
It would also help if social media companies adjusted their algorithms to rely less on engagement to determine the content they serve you. Perhaps the revelations of Facebook’s knowledge of troll farms exploiting engagement will provide the necessary impetus.
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to head to space on Dec. 18, 2021. With it, astronomers hope to find the first galaxies to form in the universe, will search for Earthlike atmospheres around other planets and accomplish many other scientific goals.
To see deep into the universe, the telescope has a very large mirror and must be kept extremely cold. But getting a fragile piece of equipment like this to space is no simple task. There have been many challenges my colleagues and I have had to overcome to design, test and soon launch and align the most powerful space telescope ever built.
It works kind of like a satellite dish. Light from a star or galaxy will enter the mouth of the telescope and bounce off the primary mirror toward the four sensors: NIRCam, which takes images in the near infrared; the Near Infrared Spectrograph, which can split the light from a selection of sources into their constituent colors and measures the strength of each; the Mid-Infrared Instrument, which takes images and measures wavelengths in the middle infrared; and the Near Infrared Imaging Slitless Spectrograph, which splits and measures the light of anything scientists point the satellite at.
This design will allow scientists to study how stars form in the Milky Way and the atmospheres of planets outside the Solar System. It may even be possible to figure out the composition of these atmospheres.
Ever since Edwin Hubble proved that distant galaxies are just like the Milky Way, astronomers have asked: How old are the oldest galaxies? How did they first form? And how have they changed over time? The Webb telescope was originally dubbed the “First Light Machine” because it is designed to answer these very questions.
One of the main goals of the telescope is to study distant galaxies close to the edge of observable universe. It takes billions of years for the light from these galaxies to cross the universe and reach Earth. I estimate that images my colleagues and I will collect with NIRCam could show protogalaxies that formed a mere 300 million years after the Big Bang – when they were just 2% of their current age.
Finding the first aggregations of stars that formed after the Big Bang is a daunting task for a simple reason: These protogalaxies are very far away and so appear to be very faint.
The telescope also has to cope with another complication: Since the universe is expanding, the galaxies that scientists will study with the Webb telescope are moving away from Earth, and the Doppler effect comes into play. Just like the pitch of an ambulance’s siren shifts down and becomes deeper when it passes and starts moving away from you, the wavelength of light from distant galaxies shifts down from visible light to infrared light.
Webb detects infrared light – it is essentially a giant heat telescope. To “see” faint galaxies in infrared light, the telescope needs to be exceptionally cold or else all it would see would be its own infrared radiation. This is where the heat shield comes in. The shield is made of a thin plastic coated with aluminum. It is five layers thick and measures 46.5 feet (17.2 meters) by 69.5 feet (21.2 meters) and will keep the mirror and sensors at minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 234 Celsius).
The Webb telescope is an incredible feat of engineering, but how does one get such a thing safely to space and guarantee that it will work?
Test and rehearse
The James Webb Space Telescope will orbit a million miles from Earth – about 4,500 times more distant than the International Space Station and much too far to be serviced by astronauts.
Over the past 12 years, the team has tested the telescope and instruments, shaken them to simulate the rocket launch and tested them again. Everything has been cooled and tested under the extreme operating conditions of orbit. I will never forget when my team was in Houston testing the NIRCam using a chamber designed for the Apollo lunar rover. It was the first time that my camera detected light that had bounced off the telescope’s mirror, and we couldn’t have been happier – even though Hurricane Harvey was fighting us outside.
After testing came the rehearsals. The telescope will be controlled remotely by commands sent over a radio link. But because the telescope will be so far away – it takes six seconds for a signal to go one way – there is no real-time control. So for the past three years, my team and I have been going to the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and running rehearsal missions on a simulator covering everything from launch to routine science operations. The team even has practiced dealing with potential problems that the test organizers throw at us and cutely call “anomalies.”
Some alignment required
The Webb team will continue to rehearse and practice until the launch date in December, but our work is far from done after Webb is folded and loaded into the rocket.
We need to wait 35 days after launch for the parts to cool before beginning alignment. After the mirror unfolds, NIRCam will snap sequences of high-resolution images of the individual mirror segments. The telescope team will analyze the images and tell motors to adjust the segments in steps measured in billionths of a meter. Once the motors move the mirrors into position, we will confirm that telescope alignment is perfect. This task is so mission critical that there are two identical copies of NIRCam on board – if one fails, the other can take over the alignment job.
This alignment and checkout process should take six months. When finished, Webb will begin collecting data. After 20 years of work, astronomers will at last have a telescope able to peer into the farthest, most distant reaches of the universe.
We agreed there should be balance between lockdown measures and economic interests.
We patiently accumulated evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
We kept our cool through every quack remedy and grifter treatment.
We offered guidance to the confused and correctives to the misinformed.
We forbore ignorant assertions that the coronavirus was a hoax, bratty defiance of public health orders, puerile abuse of “freedom,” looney vaccine conspiracies.
We did this all with fear, as we watched wave after wave of infections disrupt our lives and kill members of our families.
But now, as we suffer through a second summer of illness and death, we find ourselves confronted with a category of people whose behavior is despicable — the COVID obstructionists, the ones who not only refuse to protect themselves but actively prevent others from doing so.
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There’s no point trying to understand them, no reasoning with them. They deserve no patience, no forbearance. The only reasonable response to these miscreants is anger. White hot anger.
Last weekend, Jefferson County Public Health staff were forced to close a mobile vaccination clinic after medical professionals were harassed and threatened. At one clinic someone threw some kind of liquid at a nurse. Passengers in cars threw garbage at the staff.
“It’s the epitome of selfishness and I am angry today,” Dawn Comstock, the agency’s executive director told The Denver Post.
Comstock speaks for all of us who have tried to do our part for the wellbeing of the community. We trusted the science. We recognized the obligation we have to our friends and neighbors. We accepted the inconvenience of mask-wearing and the negligible risks of vaccinations. We did this in service to the greater good. And in return, COVID deniers, pandemic conspiracists and vaccine obstructionists are literally killing us with their stupidity and selfishness. They are inflicting illness on our loved ones, and now we are angry.
What Comstock’s medical staff experienced is only one instance of a vile pattern of behavior in America. Blame starts with certain leaders.
From the very beginning of the pandemic some elected officials downplayed the danger. Former President Donald Trump assured Americans that the virus would magically disappear. He also promoted pea-brained treatments and made a show of not wearing a mask.
Colorado has long had its own COVID deniers, like Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville, who sued the governor over mask mandates, and various sheriffs who refused to enforce mask rules, and Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who defied a public health order when she kept her Rifle restaurant open for sit-down service in May 2020.
Such tantrums set the tone for what was to come.
The emergence of vaccines held the promise of a return to normal life. But protection depended on community-wide participation, and too many Americans by the time the first vaccines were administered in December had been persuaded that the vaccines were unsafe or some nefarious form of government control. That meant that even with this pandemic-ending miracle of medical science at hand, some of our leaders and neighbors decided they would rather show off their imbecility than help eradicate the virus. Anti-vaccine parents were so threatening toward members of a school board in Grand Junction that board members had to have police escorts to their cars after a recent meeting. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to block Florida schools from issuing mask mandates. Fox News host Tucker Carlson encouraged viewers to harass people wearing masks and call police on parents of mask-wearing kids. Eleven states have prohibited mask mandates. And there are innumerable individual acts of obstruction of the sort witnessed in Jefferson County last weekend.
To what end? The country is gripped by a fourth wave of infections, and hospitals in many parts of the country, including Colorado, are approaching or exceeding capacity as unvaccinated patients pour in.
In the beginning of the pandemic, it was easier to tolerate ignorance and stubbornness. Not anymore, not with nearly 700,000 or more dead and the highly-contagious delta variant tearing through the population. Now we want severity. We want mask requirements. We want vaccine mandates. We want crisis standards of care that prioritize vaccinated patients.
We will grieve for the unvaccinated who don’t make it, but there’s only so much room in our hearts, because we’re grieving the loss of our own loved ones who did not have to die. They could still be with us, and we are angry that they’re not.
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Record downpours from Hurricane Ida overwhelmed cities across the Northeast on Sept. 1, 2021, hitting some with more than 3 inches of rain an hour. Water poured into subway stations in New York City, and streets flooded up to the rooftops of cars in Philadelphia. The storm had already wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast after hitting Louisiana three days earlier as a Category 4 hurricane.
Ida had weakened well below hurricane strength by the time it reached the Northeast, so how did it still cause so much rain?
Two major factors likely contributed to its extended extreme rainfall.
First, Ida’s tropical moisture interacted with developing warm and cold fronts.
Second, evidence is mounting that, as the climate warms, the amount of precipitation from heavy rainstorms is increasing, especially in the central and eastern U.S.
From tropical to extratropical
As hurricanes move northward from the tropics, they often transition from their characteristic circular shape to become “extratropical cyclones” with warm and cold fronts extending outward from the low pressure at the center. Even though they no longer have the intense winds that they did in the tropics, they still bring tropical humidity. That moist air is lifted along the fronts, and long-lasting, very heavy rain can result. That was happening as Ida’s remnants moved toward the Northeast.
Forecasters emphasized the threat of flash flooding well ahead of its arrival, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center issued a rare “high risk” of excessive rainfall outlook for parts of the Northeast a day in advance.
The widespread, intense rainfall overwhelmed rivers and drainage systems in the highly populated corridor from Philadelphia to New York to Boston. That led to major flash flooding and at least 50 deaths in the region, in addition to at least 17 deaths earlier along the Gulf Coast. Newark, New Jersey, recorded 8.41 inches of rain, their most ever in a single day, shattering the old record by over 1.5 inches. Weather stations in New York City saw rain rates over 3 inches per hour. The extreme rainfall arrived with tornadoes in several states, including Maryland and New Jersey.
Warmer climate, heavier rainfall
Extreme rain and flash flooding aren’t new to the Northeast, and they often result from hurricanes or their remnants. The remains of Hurricanes Agnes (1972), Floyd (1999), Irene (2011), Lee (2011) and Sandy (2012), among others, all brought widespread rainfall and flooding through the area.
Yet, heavy downpours are becoming more common in the region as the climate warms.
The reasons are fairly simple: Warmer air can have more water vapor in it. With every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F) increase in temperature, there can be about 7% more moisture in the air. This is formally known as the Clausius-Clapeyron relation.
Because the amount of rain that a storm produces is closely connected to the amount of water vapor in the air, this means that, all else being equal, heavy downpours are more likely in a warmer climate. It explains why heavy rain occurs year-round in the tropics, whereas it is much more likely in summer than winter in the U.S.
This is also why the intensity of rainfall is expected to increase as the climate warms. When weather patterns that bring together the ingredients for heavy rainfall, like hurricanes, occur in a warmer world, more moisture is available, and more rain falls. Unfortunately, this is not a linear process: A small bit of added moisture can lead to a lot more rain.
Hurricanes are limited to certain areas, but extreme rainfall from other types of storms can occur just about anywhere – think of intense cloudbursts during the summer monsoon in the Desert Southwest, or organized thunderstorm systems like the one that caused deadly flooding in Tennessee in August 2021.
Many communities are already highly vulnerable to the type of extreme precipitation that has been observed historically. Floods have always been a hazard, and intense rainfall can test the infrastructure even in places where it happens often. But as the climate changes, these risks will only increase further.
This article was updated Sept. 3 with the Northeast death toll rising.
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In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today its plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing. USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for drought impacted ranchers. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide more details and tools to help ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center later this month.
“USDA is currently determining how our disaster assistance programs can best help alleviate the significant economic, physical and emotional strain agriculture producers are experiencing due to drought conditions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The duration and intensity of current drought conditions are merciless, and the impacts of this summer’s drought will be felt by producers for months to come. Today’s announcement is to provide relief as ranchers make fall and winter herd management decisions.”
ELAP provides financial assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, certain adverse weather events or loss conditions as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
ELAP already covers the cost of hauling water during drought, and this change will expand the program beginning in 2021 to cover feed transportation costs where grazing and hay resources have been depleted. This includes places where:
Drought intensity is D2 for eight consecutive weeks as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor;
Drought intensity is D3 or greater; or
USDA has determined a shortage of local or regional feed availability.
Cost share assistance will also be made available to cover eligible cost of treating hay or feed to prevent the spread of invasive pests like fire ants.
Under the revised policy for feed transportation cost assistance, eligible ranchers will be reimbursed 60% of feed transportation costs above what would have been incurred in a normal year. Producers qualifying as underserved (socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning or military veteran) will be reimbursed for 90% of the feed transportation cost above what would have been incurred in a normal year.
A national cost formula, as established by USDA, will be used to determine reimbursement costs which will not include the first 25 miles and distances exceeding 1,000 transportation miles. The calculation will also exclude the normal cost to transport hay or feed if the producer normally purchases some feed. For 2021, the initial cost formula of $6.60 per mile will be used (before the percentage is applied), but may be adjusted on a state or regional basis.
To be eligible for ELAP assistance, livestock must be intended for grazing and producers must have incurred feed transportation costs on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Although producers will self-certify losses and expenses to FSA, producers are encouraged to maintain good records and retain receipts and related documentation in the event these documents are requested for review by the local FSA County Committee. The deadline to file an application for payment for the 2021 program year is Jan. 31, 2022.
Additional USDA Drought Assistance
USDA has authorized other flexibilities to help producers impacted by drought. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) extended deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments and deferred and waived the resulting interest accrual to help farmers and ranchers through widespread drought conditions in many parts of the nation. Additionally, RMA authorized emergency procedures to help streamline and accelerate the adjustment of losses and issuance of indemnity payments to crop insurance policyholders in impacted areas and updated policy to allow producers with crop insurance to hay, graze or chop cover crops at any time and still receive 100% of the prevented planting payment. This policy change supports use of cover crops, which improves soil health can help producers build resilience to drought.
Meanwhile, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to improve irrigation efficiency and water storage in soil, helping producers build resilience to drought. In response to drought this year, NRCS targeted $41.8 million in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon through Conservation Incentive Contracts, a new option available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, focused on drought practices.
USDA offers a comprehensive portfolio of disaster assistance programs. On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet (PDF, 4.7 MB), and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help producers and landowners determine all program or loan options available for disaster recovery assistance.
The rise of coronavirus variants has highlighted the huge influence evolutionary biology has on daily life. But how mutations, random chance and natural selection produce variants is a complicated process, and there has been a lot of confusion about how and why new variants emerge.
Until recently, the most famous example of rapid evolution was the story of the peppered moth. In the mid-1800s, factories in Manchester, England, began covering the moth’s habitat in soot, and the moth’s normal white coloring made them visible to predators. But some moths had a mutation that made them darker. Since they were better camouflaged in their new world, they could evade predators and reproduce more than their white counterparts.
We are an evolutionary biologist and an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh who work together to track and control the evolution of pathogens. Over the past year and half, we’ve been closely following how the coronavirus has acquired different mutations around the world.
Each infection produces millions of viruses within a person’s body, leading to many mutated coronaviruses. However, the number of mutated viruses is dwarfed by the much larger number of viruses that are the same as the strain that started the infection.
Nearly all of the mutations that occur are harmless glitches that don’t change how the virus works – and others in fact harm the virus. Some small fraction of changes may make the virus more infectious, but these mutants must also be lucky. To give rise to a new variant, it must successfully jump to a new person and replicate many copies.
The small odds of a mutant being transmitted is called the “population bottleneck.” The fact that it is only a small number of the viruses that start the next infection is the critical, random factor that limits the probability that new variants will arise. The birth of every new variant is a chance event involving a copying error and an unlikely transmission event. Out of the millions of coronavirus copies in an infected person, the odds are remote that a fitter mutant is among the few that spread to another person and become amplified into a new variant.
Many researchers are studying which mutations lead to more transmissible versions of the coronavirus. It turns out that variants have tended to have many of the same mutations that increase the amount of virus an infected person produces. With more than a million new infections occurring every day and billions of people still unvaccinated, susceptible hosts are rarely in short supply. So, natural selection will favor mutations that can exploit all these unvaccinated people and make the coronavirus more transmissible.
Under these circumstances, the best way to constrain the evolution of the coronavirus is to reduce the number of infections.
Even though vaccinated people can still get infected with the delta variant, they tend to experience shorter, milder infections than unvaccinated individuals. This greatly reduces the chances of any mutated virus – either one that makes the virus more transmissible or one that could allow it to get past immunity from vaccines – from jumping from one person to another.
Eventually, when nearly everyone has some immunity to the coronavirus from vaccination, viruses that break through this immunity could gain a competitive advantage over other strains. It is theoretically possible that in this situation, natural selection will lead to variants that can infect and cause serious disease in vaccinated people.
However, these mutants must still escape the population bottleneck. It is unlikely that vaccine-induced immunity will be the major player in variant emergence as long as there are lots of new infections occurring. It’s simply a numbers game, and for now, the modest benefit the virus would get from vaccine evasion is dwarfed by the vast opportunities to infect unvaccinated people.
The world has already witnessed the relationship between the number of infections and the rise of mutants. The coronavirus remained essentially unchanged for months until the pandemic got out of control. With relatively few infections, the genetic code had limited opportunities to mutate. But as infection clusters exploded, the virus rolled the dice millions of times and some mutations produced fitter mutants.
The best way to stop new variants is to stop their spread, and the answer to that is vaccination.
Happy anniversary, Colorado River. It was 100 years ago this summer that President Warren G. Harding signed a bill that renamed the “Grand River” to the “Colorado River.”
Before 1921, the stretch of river between its headwaters and its confluence with the Green River in Utah had been called the Grand River. Because of that prior designation, geographic locations such as Grand Lake, Grand County and Grand Junction received their names.
Through the work of Rep. Ed Taylor, legislation was passed at the federal level and in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. In an April 6, 1921, opinion piece published in the Steamboat Springs Pilot, Taylor wrote about the reasons behind his effort and how he overcame initial skepticism from the business community in Grand Junction. He noted that while the Green River might be longer, the Grand River contributed much more water to the main stem.
Taylor’s hard work led to passage of the act changing the river’s name, and President Harding’s signature made it official.
I started for Denver around 9:00 a.m. with a full charge from the night before via the Kum & Go in Steamboat Springs.
The climb up Rabbit Ears pass and run down Muddy Creek is the longest leg of the trip so I wondered how my nearly 5 year old battery would hold up. Going at highway speeds puts a real drain on it, but I pulled into Kremmling with a cushion, where charging is free.
At the the Kum & Go in Granby both chargers were busy but I wanted a bump to get to Fraser and had a short wait. It was good to see the cars, a Bolt and it looked like maybe a Chrysler Plug-In Hybrid, charging. I believe the infrastructure is helped along by the Colorado Energy Office.
I was able to get from Fraser to my house in Denver on only about 36% of charge. The regenerative braking system indicator lights were on much of the time after the summit at Berthoud Pass. I also bypassed all but a short reach of I-70 — to conserve charge and gawk at Clear Creek — using the frontage roads and US-6, then W. 44th Avenue from Golden.
With the charging infrastructure along US-40 it’s easy-peasy to get to the Yampa River Valley and back.
Charlie Watts, whose strong but unflashy drumming powered the Rolling Stones for over 50 years, died on Tuesday in London. He was 80.
His death, in a hospital, was announced by his publicist, Bernard Doherty. No other details were immediately provided…
Reserved, dignified and dapper, Mr. Watts was never as flamboyant, either onstage or off, as most of his rock-star peers, let alone the Stones’ lead singer, Mick Jagger. He was content to be one of the finest rock drummers of his generation, playing with a jazz-inflected swing that made the band’s titanic success possible. As the Stones guitarist Keith Richards said in his 2010 autobiography, “Life,” “Charlie Watts has always been the bed that I lie on musically.”
While some rock drummers chased after volume and bombast, Mr. Watts defined his playing with subtlety, swing and a solid groove.
“As much as Mick’s voice and Keith’s guitar, Charlie Watts’s snare sound is the Rolling Stones,” Bruce Springsteen wrote in an introduction to the 1991 edition of the drummer Max Weinberg’s book “The Big Beat.” “When Mick sings, ‘It’s only rock ’n’ roll but I like it,’ Charlie’s in back showing you why!”
Charles Robert Watts was born in London on June 2, 1941. His mother, the former Lillian Charlotte Eaves, was a homemaker; his father, Charles Richard Watts, was in the Royal Air Force and, after World War II, became a truck driver for British Railways.
Charlie’s first instrument was a banjo, but, baffled by the fingerings required to play it, he removed the neck and converted its body into a snare drum. He discovered jazz when he was 12 and soon became a fan of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus.
By 1960, Mr. Watts had graduated from the Harrow School of Art and found work as a graphic artist for a London advertising agency. He wrote and illustrated “Ode to a Highflying Bird,” a children’s book about the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker (although it was not published until 1965). In the evenings, he played drums with a variety of groups.
Most of them were jazz combos, but he was also invited to join Alexis Korner’s raucous rhythm-and-blues collective, Blues Incorporated. Mr. Watts declined the invitation because he was leaving England to work as a graphic designer in Scandinavia, but he joined the group when he returned a few months later.
The newly formed Rolling Stones (then called the Rollin’ Stones) knew they needed a good drummer but could not afford Mr. Watts, who was already drawing a regular salary from his various gigs. “We starved ourselves to pay for him!” Mr. Richards wrote. “Literally. We went shoplifting to get Charlie Watts.”
In early 1963, when they could finally guarantee five pounds a week, Mr. Watts joined the band, completing the canonical lineup of Mr. Richards, Mr. Jagger, the guitarist Brian Jones, the bassist Bill Wyman and the pianist Ian Stewart. He moved in with his bandmates and immersed himself in Chicago blues records.
n the wake of the Beatles’ success, the Rolling Stones quickly climbed from being an electric-blues specialty act to one of the biggest bands in the British Invasion of the 1960s. While Mr. Richards’s guitar riff defined the band’s most famous single, the 1965 chart-topper “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” Mr. Watts’s drum pattern was just as essential. He was relentless on “Paint It Black” (No. 1 in 1966), supple on “Ruby Tuesday” (No. 1 in 1967) and the master of a funky groove on “Honky Tonk Women” (No. 1 in 1969).
The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday announced a new kind of climate observatory near the headwaters of the Colorado River that will help scientists better predict rain and snowfall in the U.S. West and determine how much of it will flow through the region.
The multimillion-dollar effort led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory launches next week. The team has set up radar systems, balloons, cameras and other equipment in an area of Colorado where much of the water in the river originates as snow. More than 40 million people depend on the Colorado River.
Alejandro Flores, an associate professor of hydrology at Boise State University, said the weather in mountainous areas is notoriously difficult to model and the observatory will be a “game changer.”
“We have to think about the land and the atmosphere as a linked system that interact with each other,” he said in a call with reporters. “Up until now, there have been a lack of observations that help us understand this critical interface.”
Scientists will use the observatory to gather data on precipitation, wind, clouds, tiny particles, humidity, soil moisture and other things. Along with a better understanding of the hydrology, they hope to learn more about how wildfires, forest management, drought and tree-killing bugs, for example, play a part in water availability.
A big issue in predicting water supply in the West centers on soil moisture and content, said Ken Williams, the lead on-site researcher and Berkeley Lab scientist. The monsoon season largely was a dud across the Southwest for the past two years, which means more melting snow soaks into the ground before reaching streams and rivers when it does rain, he said…
The new climate observatory, called the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory, brings together federal scientists, university researchers and others to build on a previous effort to study part of the upper Gunnison River basin in Colorado that shares characteristics with the Rocky Mountains.
For the Rio Grande basin, the data could help water managers as they juggle longstanding water sharing agreements among Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, Williams said. It also could help improve weather forecasting and experiments to modify the weather, such as cloud seeding to produce more precipitation.
The data will be available to other researchers and provide a benchmark for any collection beyond the two-year project, scientists said.
Water managers in the Colorado River basin knew that dry soil conditions and below-average snowpack last winter would lead to reduced runoff into streams, rivers and reservoirs this summer. But predicting just how much water would make its way into the Colorado watershed proved difficult.
In April, the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees a vast network of water infrastructure in the United States, shared data with the National Park Service that projected a range of water levels in Lake Powell throughout 2021. The models showed the reservoir would likely remain above 3,554 feet in elevation — a level below which many of the boat ramps in Glen Canyon National Recreation area would become unusable — until as late as October.
But those projections turned out to be overly optimistic and were repeatedly revised as the spring snowmelt failed to recharge reservoirs in the basin. Lake Powell fell below 3,554 feet in July, and it has continued to decline, despite unprecedented emergency releases from other reservoirs upstream.
Longer-term models forecasting levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell proved to be even further off-base, a prediction miss that has consequences for the 40 million people who rely on the Colorado River for water…
Improving the accuracy of weather and streamflow forecasts is one goal of a new project that U.S. Department of Energy scientists led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are starting next month. The team is installing a field laboratory in the mountains of Colorado near Crested Butte that will collect a vast array of data to better understand the water cycle in high elevation environments.
Mountain regions, where most of the water in Western rivers originates, are changing rapidly in the face of climate change, explained Alejandro Flores, a hydrologist at Boise State University who is involved with the project.
“Mountain environments,” he said in a press call with reporters Tuesday, “present a particularly difficult environment in which to model the weather and in particular the precipitation and other facets that control how snowpack accumulates over the course of the season.”
The field laboratory will operate for two years and will measure everything from groundwater conditions to wind, clouds, aerosols, temperature, humidity and ozone. It will also bring together scientists specializing in various fields — geologists, hydrologists, microbiologists, plant and vegetation researchers — as well as various universities and federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation…
The range of data being collected by the project will allow researchers to study weather patterns in great detail, said Jessie Creamean, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University, and findings from the project will likely be applicable to other mountain watersheds.
The project leaders hope the findings from the project can be used to more accurately model runoff into reservoirs but also to improve weather forecasts used by skiers and other recreationists.
On Aug. 18, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will end use of chlorpyrifos – a pesticide associated with neurodevelopmental problems and impaired brain function in children – on all food products nationwide. Gina Solomon, a principal investigator at the Public Health Institute, clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco and former deputy secretary at the California Environmental Protection Agency, explains the scientific evidence that led California to ban chlorpyrifos in 2020 and why the EPA is now following suit.
1. What is chlorpyrifos, and how is it used?
Chlorpyrifos is an inexpensive and effective pesticide that has been on the market since 1965. According to the EPA, approximately 5.1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos have been used annually in recent years (2014-2018) on a wide range of crops, including many different vegetables, corn, soybeans, cotton and fruit and nut trees.
Until 2000, chlorpyrifos was also used in homes for pest control. It was banned for indoor use after passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which required additional protection of children’s health. Residues left after indoor use were quite high, and toddlers who crawled on the floor and put their hands in their mouth were found to be at risk of poisoning.
2. What’s the evidence that chlorpyrifos is harmful?
Researchers published the first study linking chlorpyrifos to potential developmental harm in children in 2003. They found that higher levels of a chlorpyrifos metabolite – a substance produced when the body breaks down the pesticide – in umbilical cord blood were significantly associated with smaller infant birth weight and length.
These findings touched off a battle to protect children from chlorpyrifos. Some scientists were skeptical of results from epidemiological studies that followed the children of pregnant women with greater or lesser levels of chlorpyrifos in their urine or cord blood and looked for adverse effects.
Epidemiological studies can provide powerful evidence that something is harmful to humans, but results can also be muddled by gaps in information about the timing and level of exposures. They also can be complicated by exposures to other harmful substances through diet, personal habits, homes, communities and workplaces.
3. Why did it take so long to reach a conclusion?
As evidence accumulated that low levels of chlorpyrifos were probably toxic to
humans, regulatory scientists at the EPA and in California reviewed it – but they took very different paths.
At first, both groups focused on the established toxicity mechanism: acetylcholinesterase inhibition. They reasoned that preventing significant disruption of this key enzyme would protect people from any other neurological effects.
Scientists working under contract for Dow Chemical, which manufactured chlorpyrifos, published a complex model in 2014 to estimate how much of the pesticide a person would have to consume or inhale to trigger acetylcholinesterase inhibition. But some of their equations were based on data from as few as six healthy adults who had swallowed capsules of chlorpyrifos during experiments in the 1970s and early 1980s – a research method that now would be considered unethical.
California scientists questioned whether risk assessments based on the Dow-funded model adequately accounted for uncertainty and human variability. They also wondered whether acetylcholinesterase inhibition was really the most sensitive biological effect.
In 2016 the EPA released a reassessment of chlorpyrifos’s potential health effects that took a very different approach. It focused on epidemiological studies published from 2003 through 2014 at Columbia University that found developmental impacts in children exposed to chlorpyrifos. The Columbia researchers analyzed chlorpyrifos levels in the umbilical cord blood at birth, and the EPA attempted to back-calculate how much chlorpyrifos the babies might have been exposed to throughout pregnancy.
On the basis of this analysis, the Obama administration concluded that chlorpyrifos could not be safely used and should be banned. However, the Trump administration halted this decision one year later, arguing that the science was not resolved and more study was needed. The Trump administration subsequently abandoned the human epidemiological studies and reverted to using the Dow-sponsored model and acetylcholinesterase inhibition endpoint that was used back in 2014.
History indicates that both political and scientific considerations likely accounted for the long delays. Although the conclusions clearly shifted with different federal administrations, the epidemiological studies and the acetylcholinesterase model also pointed in different directions – one suggested high health risks in humans, and the other suggested relatively lower risks. Policy conclusions thus depended partly on which data scientists chose as the basis for evaluating health risks.
4. What convinced California to impose a ban?
Three new papers on prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos, published in 2017 and 2018, broke the logjam. These were independent studies, conducted on rats, that evaluated subtle effects on learning and development.
The results were consistent and clear: Chlorpyrifos caused decreased learning, hyperactivity and anxiety in rat pups at doses lower than those that affected acetylcholinesterase. And these studies clearly quantified doses to the rats, so there was no uncertainty about their exposure levels during pregnancy. The results were eerily similar to effects seen in human epidemiological studies, vindicating serious health concerns about chlorpyrifos.
California reassessed chlorpyrifos, using these new studies. Regulators concluded that the pesticide posed significant risks that could not be mitigated, especially among people who lived near agricultural fields where it was used. In October 2019, the state announced that under an enforceable agreement with manufacturers, all sales of chlorpyrifos to California growers would end by Feb. 6, 2020, and growers would not be allowed to possess or use it after Dec. 31, 2020.
Two months after the California decision, the European Union voted to ban chlorpyrifos due to concerns about neurodevelopmental harm. New York, Hawaii, Oregon and Maryland also moved to end use of the pesticide within their borders. On the same day that California sales of the pesticide ceased, the main manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, Corteva Agrosciences, announced that it would stop producing the chemical.
In late April 2021, a federal court in California ordered the agency to either ban use of chlorpyrifos on food within 60 days or show that it was safe. “The EPA has had nearly 14 years to publish a legally sufficient response to the 2007 Petition,” the ruling stated. “During that time, the EPA’s egregious delay exposed a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos.”
With the agency’s Aug. 18 announcement, that delay is finally over.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Jan. 23, 2020.
I’m in Steamboat Springs for the Colorado Water Congress’ Summer Conference. I drove the Leaf over because there are now 2 DC Fast Charger installations in Middle Park: One in the Town of Fraser and one in the Town of Granby. Also, the free Level 2 chargers are still around in Kremmling for that boost over Rabbit Ears Pass.
Don Everly, half of one of rock’s earliest and most influential harmony groups, the Everly Brothers, died Saturday in his Nashville home at the age of 84. A rep for the singer confirmed his death to the Los Angeles Times. A cause of death was not immediately known.
“Don lived by what he felt in his heart,” Everly’s family said in a statement to the Times. “Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams … with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother.”
Starting with 1957’s “Bye Bye Love” and continuing for five more years, the Everlys ruled the pop and country charts with 15 Top 10 hits, including “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Although many of their songs were written by outside writers, Don, the more prolific of the duo, penned three of their finest songs: the rollicking “Cathy’s Clown,” “(‘Til) I Kissed You” and the forlorn “So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad).” In most cases, Don sang lead, with Phil’s wispier, more velvety harmonies wrapping around his brother’s.
The resulting blend, steeped in country music, Appalachia, and early rock & roll, impacted on nearly every harmony-based band that followed, including the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Hollies and Simon & Garfunkel. But the Everlys’ influenced never waned. The brothers were among the first acts inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2013, just a few months before Phil Everly’s death in January 2014 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones released a collection of Everly covers in honor of the brothers.
Born February 1st, 1937, in Kentucky, Isaac Donald Everly — known as Donald to family and friends — was steeped in music from the start. His father Ike was a coal miner who also happened to be a gifted guitarist. The family relocated to Chicago when Don was two; his brother Phillip was born in 1939. Their father played guitar in bars and later hosted a radio show in Iowa. “When he grows up, Donald, 8, wants to be an entertainer like his dad so they can form a vocal and musical team,” read a program at the Iowa radio station. Known as “Little Donnie,” Everly had his own segment on that show while he was in grade school; during an Everly family program, little brother Phil began joining in.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Bill Vogrin):
CPW and partners hike miles in heat to stock state-endangered boreal toad tadpoles
Under a blistering late July sun, a team of Colorado Parks and Wildlife native aquatic biologists, staff and volunteers hiked a steep mountain trail, each loaded with 30-pound bags of water filled with 100 or so squirming, black boreal toad tadpoles.
They were joined by other members of the Arkansas Basin Boreal Toad Team – an interagency workgroup created to coordinate conservation and management of the state-endangered Boreal toads within the Arkansas River basin in Colorado.
Besides CPW, the workgroup includes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
In all, about 20 people hiked 7-plus miles, round trip, to deposit some 1,800 tadpoles into an alpine wetland along West Tennessee Creek at 11,500 feet elevation.
There, in the shallow waters of Titan Lake, they released their tadpoles, which immediately began swimming and feeding along its algae laden shores, beneath the jagged, snow-tipped summit of Homestake Peak at 13,209 feet.
The tadpole relocation project was done in consultation with the Colorado Boreal Toad Recovery Team. The interagency workgroup long ago identified the West Tennessee Creek drainage as a possible relocation site, given the quality of its wetlands and the potential for breeding and its history as a home to Boreal toads.
Similar parades of CPW biologists, staff and volunteers have recently taken place to high-altitude wetlands statewide as the agency pursues several avenues in its efforts to rescue the tiny brownish-black state-endangered toad.
Boreal toads once thrived in Colorado high country wetlands, but their numbers have been crashing due to a deadly “chytrid” skin fungus that is threatening amphibians worldwide.
The grueling hike was led by Paul Foutz, CPW native aquatic species biologist in the Southeast Region and Boreal Toad specialist. Partner teams were led by Jeni Windorski, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Leadville and Brad Lambert, a zoologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
The tadpoles were taken as eggs from the East Fork Homestake Creek boreal toad population in the Northwest Region, and grown (hatched & grown?) at the John Mumma Native Aquatic Restoration Facility hatchery in Alamosa, in the Southwest Region.
“With our partners, CPW is working hard to recover the state-endangered Boreal toad by creating new populations,” Foutz said. “The deadly chytrid fungus and other impacts to their natural habitat is causing this species to decline dramatically, and we’re doing everything we can to preserve them.
“We have just a few robust populations left on the landscape. They’ve been declining in recent decades. This is the first translocation in Lake County. We’re hoping the tadpoles we released today will survive and thrive, and in a few weeks metamorph into land-dwelling toadlets. We’ll continue to monitor this new population along with existing populations around the state in our effort to maintain boreal toads across the Colorado landscape for generations to come.”
Mature Boreal toad. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
In an ongoing conservation project, CPW recently released 1,700 boreal toad toadlets in a wetland in the San Juan mountains. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Biologists collect and record data at a field laboratory as they bathe 35 Boreal toads captured on South Cottonwood Creek, west of Buena Vista, on Sept. 6, 2018. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
A submerged Boreal toad. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Melissa Butynski
Squirming black boreal toad tadpoles feed on algae along the shore of Titan Lake above Leadville and just below the 13,209-foot summit of Homestake Peak. Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists, staff and partner agencies hiked them to the high alpine lake in an effort to rescue the state-endangered toad. Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Bill Vogrin
Here’s a guest column from Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna that’s running in The New York Times:
The authors are youth climate activists from Sweden, Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya, working with the international youth-led Fridays For Future movement.
Last week, some of the world’s leading climate change scientists confirmed that humans are making irreversible changes to our planet and extreme weather will only become more severe. This news is a “code red for humanity,” said the United Nations secretary general.
It is — but young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened.
On Aug. 20, 2018, one child staged a lone protest outside the Swedish Parliament, expecting to stay for three weeks. Tomorrow we will mark three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike. Even earlier, brave young people from around the world spoke out about the climate crisis in their communities. And today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does.
For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous weather events, diseases and other harms caused by climate change, which is why a new analysis released Friday by UNICEF is so important.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index provides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.
It finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. A staggering 850 million, about a third of all the world’s children, are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in “extremely high risk” countries, the UNICEF researchers report.
This is the world being left to us. But there is still time to change our climate future. Around the world, our movement of young activists continues to grow.
In Bangladesh, Tahsin Uddin, 23, saw the impacts of climate change in his village and other coastal areas and was moved to action. He is passionate about climate education and has created a network of young journalists and educators to spread awareness, all while organizing cleanups of waterways teeming with plastic waste pollution.
In the Philippines, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, 23, has had to complete her homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside and wiped out her community’s electricity. She told us there were times she was afraid of drowning in her own bedroom as water flooded in. Now she is leading youth in her country to respond to the aftermath of those typhoons and other hazards through sharing food, water, clothes and support with the most affected communities.
In Zimbabwe, Nkosi Nyathi, 18, is worried about a potential food crisis if weather patterns continue. Heat waves made school a challenging experience for him and his peers. Now he speaks to leaders from around the world to demand the inclusion of young people in decisions that affect their future.
The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals a disturbing global inequity when it comes to the worst effects of climate change. Thirty-three countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria and Guinea, are considered extremely high-risk for children, but those countries collectively emit just 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The 10 countries with the highest emissions, including China, the United States, Russia and Japan, collectively account for nearly 70 percent of global emissions. And children in those higher-emitting states face lower risks: Only one of these countries, India, is ranked as extremely high-risk in the UNICEF report.
Many higher-risk countries are poorer nations from the global south, and it’s there that people will be most impacted, despite contributing the least to the problem. We will not allow industrialized countries to duck responsibility for the suffering of children in other parts of the world. Governments, industry and the rest of the international community must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as 195 nations committed to do in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.
We have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow. The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now — we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences. The world’s young people stand with the scientists and will continue to sound the alarm.
We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis. We will not allow the world to look away.
Greta Thunberg via Twitter
Greta Thunberg, Montreal, September 27, 2019 via Facebook.
Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.
From Greta Thunberg’s Twitter feed April 26, 2019.
Youth activists rally for climate justice in front of the US Capitol in Washington,DC (photo from earlier in the year). Image: Lorie Shaull,CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Screenshot of Rolling Stone Special Edition March 2020. [Click image to go to the article.] Greta Thunberg illustration by Shepard Fairey. Based on a photograph by Markus Schreiber/AP Images/Shutterstock
The youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States attended the Ninth Circuit hearing in December. Photo credit: Robin Loznak
Greta Thunberg in Stockholm screen shot from the Time Magazine website May 19, 2019.
Chela is a Nairobi based visual artist who specializes in graffiti and fine art. Chela has gained extensive experience experimenting on the streets of Nairobi. Chela has managed to successfully train some young people on how to use art as a tool for social change. Graphic via: RiseForClimate.org
Nanci Griffith, a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter who kept one foot in folk and the other in country and was blessed with a soaring voice equally at home in both genres, died on Friday. She was 68…
While Ms. Griffith often wrote political and confessional material, her best-loved songs were closely observed tales of small-town life, sometimes with painful details in the lyrics, but typically sung with a deceptive prettiness. Her song “Love at the Five and Dime,” for example, tracks a couple’s romance from its teenage origins when “Rita was 16 years/Hazel eyes and chestnut hair/She made the Woolworth counter shine” through old age, when “Eddie traveled with the barroom bands/till arthritis took his hands/Now he sells insurance on the side.”
The song was a country hit in 1986 — but for Kathy Mattea, not for Ms. Griffith. Similarly, while Ms. Griffith was the first person to record “From a Distance,” written by Julie Gold, the song was later a smash hit for Bette Midler.
Ms. Griffith sometimes affected a folkie casualness toward mainstream success. She told Rolling Stone in 1993 that she didn’t mind that Ms. Mattea had the hit version of “Love at the Five and Dime”: “It feels great that Kathy has to sing that for the rest of her life and I don’t.”
Nanci Caroline Griffith was born on July 6, 1953, in Seguin, Texas, about 35 miles northeast of San Antonio, to Marlin Griffith, a book publisher and singer in barbershop quartets, and Ruelen Strawser, a real estate agent and amateur actress. “I come from a basically really dysfunctional family,” she told Texas Monthly in 1999. “I had very, very irresponsible parents.”
When she was a child, her family moved to Austin…
By the time she was 12, Ms. Griffith was writing songs and playing in Austin clubs. A formative experience came when, as a teenager, she saw a performance by the melancholy Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt; she particularly identified with his song “Tecumseh Valley,” about a doomed young woman named Caroline, and it became a staple of her songbook.
She told The New York Times in 1988: “When I was young I listened to Odetta records for hours and hours. Then when I started high school, Loretta Lynn came along. Before that, country music hadn’t had a guitar-playing woman who wrote her own songs.”
After attending the University of Texas, Ms. Griffith stayed in Austin. She worked as a kindergarten teacher while she pursued music, performing alongside the likes of Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. She put aside finger paints when she won a songwriting award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas; she released her first album, “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods,” in 1978. It was the first of four folk albums she would make for tiny labels in an eight-year span, during which she also toured constantly…
Ms. Griffith was a living link not just to earlier songwriters, but also to the music of Ireland (she played with the Chieftains) and Texas (she toured with the surviving members of Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets)…
She kept playing through two bouts of cancer and a painful case of Dupuyten’s contracture, an abnormal thickening of the skin on the hand, which severely limited the mobility of her fingers…
In 1993, at age 39, when she had not yet won a Grammy and her commercial prospects were uncertain, Ms. Griffith told Rolling Stone what motivated her:
“Longevity — I guess that’s the brass ring for me. I still want to hear my music coming back to me when I’m 65.”
After almost two years of a horrific pandemic that’s killed almost 620,000 Americans and deadly, faster-spreading variants emerging because selfish and ignorant people refuse to get vaccinated — those of us who have tried to do everything right have no more f**ks left to give.
Anti-vaxxers, COVID conspiracy theorists and right-wing politicians have made the pandemic far more hellacious than it ever needed to be. We have been lectured endlessly by pundits and attention seekers on social media that we musn’t ever make them feel bad about their awful choices — no matter how many public, violent scenes they cause over health rules, heavily armed protests they organize to intimidate us and how much the death toll soars.
Their feelings have been deemed more important than the health and well-being of our families, because somehow if we kowtow to the worst people in our society, a few will supposedly be nice enough to get vaccinated or wear masks.
Knuckle-draggers do not deserve veto power over our safety. The only way we will make COVID an occasional nuisance instead of a mortal threat to everyone’s health is with vaccine mandates for everything from school to concerts to travel.
If you refuse to get vaccinated — and this goes double if you are someone with enough of a platform to influence others — you are to blame for the fourth wave. You are the reason why more children are being hospitalized, so spare me your family values bloviation. You are why good people who have done their part and gotten their shots are getting breakthrough cases.
I am tired of sugarcoating it. I am tired of the perennial hectoring to “both sides” the pandemic like we mindlessly do with political coverage.
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The 40% who can’t be bothered to get jabbed because they know more than doctors or they understand freedom better than the rest of us or just know that the magnetic 5G is gonna be injected in their veins are why people continue to needlessly die. And they are why life continues to be hell for the rest of us.
Yes, there is a political divide in vaccination rates — and Republicans are on the wrong side of it. Let’s stop denying the obvious or making excuses for a party whose pandemic response has been a mix of crass pandering to their base and sociopathic stupidity.
For almost a year and a half, most of us have stayed home as much as we could, helped our neighbors, homeschooled our children, faithfully worn masks and gotten our shots when it was our turn. Health care workers, in particular, have seen the most unfathomable human suffering, been forced to isolate from their families and have desperately pleaded with people to follow simple health rules and get vaccinated so that we can put COVID-19 behind us.
We were promised that by sacrificing, working hard and playing by the rules, we could put an end to mass death and finally get back to some of the things that bring us joy: having parties, going to festivals, traveling beyond our backyards and more.
But the dream of post-COVID normalcy is fading fast as Delta and other variants have ripped through our country, even infecting some of the vaccinated.
That’s also threatening our economic recovery, which is why you’re seeing corporate America step up with major companies like Walmart and Google finally issuing vaccine mandates.
Let’s be clear. Vaccine passports should have been mandatory from the jump. Counting on people to do the right thing has worked for most people during the pandemic — but there are millions who have proven they could care less about keeping others — or even themselves — alive.
But it seems to be in our DNA as Americans to cower in the face of an angry (white) minority, and so President Biden and many Democratic politicians were convinced that mandates wouldn’t work. Of course, even efforts by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other leaders to essentially bribe people into getting vaccinated with lottery-style raffles were deemed by Republicans as slightly less offensive than critical race theory.
Yes, there is a political divide in vaccination rates — and Republicans are on the wrong side of it. Let’s stop denying the obvious or making excuses for a party whose pandemic response has been a mix of crass pandering to their base and sociopathic stupidity.
Knuckle-draggers do not deserve veto power over our safety. The only way we will make COVID an occasional nuisance instead of a mortal threat to everyone’s health is with vaccine mandates for everything from school to concerts to travel.
How did we get to a point where the proudly ignorant wield this much power, anyway?
Well, in my more than 20-year career in journalism, there has been one constant: You are never, ever to make people who are loudly anti-intellectual, knowingly spew lies and publicly pat themselves on the back for it, feel dumb. That is the sin of elitism and there is nothing worse, you see. Even casting the argument in positive terms, like lauding the value of higher education, is considered looking down on nice folks who insist that the Earth is flat and their theories should command the same respect as those of Galileo.
We’re told there’s nothing worse than living in liberal bubbles (even though those in the media and on the left are obsessed with trying to understand red state America). But you know what? Living in a blue enclave is a pretty great way to survive a plague. Nobody yells at you for wearing a mask at the gas station. Schools actually care about our kids’ safety. Officials aren’t trying to score political points off of our misery.
And so when I have taken publications to task for knowingly printing lies about COVID-19, particularly from GOP leaders who know exactly what they’re doing, the reaction is always dreadfully boring. A seasoned journalist (read: white and male) takes it upon himself to lecture me that I know nothing of journalism (even though I’ve run two publications and they typically have run none), and people must be trusted to make up their own minds and sift between facts and B.S.
How’s that working out as we’re facing another fall and winter trapped in our homes as unvaccinated-propelled variants crash across the country?
After this much unneeded agony, I’m done coddling the craven and crazy. And I know I’m not alone.
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