New Years Resolution

Photos in Bishop. Sads.

A typical scene here in the Owen’s Valley; desert scrub, cottonwoods and willows along the Owen’s River and the snow-capped White Mountains only 7 miles away but more than 8,000 feet higher in Elevation.

A little less than a year ago, I went on a run.

…I turned around and had to stop to take in the incredible vista that was laid out before me. Instead of the Sierras I saw the sun setting over the white mountains, bathing the boulders littered all over the landscape in a soft golden hue. With my heart pounding and my adrenaline racing I thought to myself this very, very cheesy thought – ” this is it”. I need to be in places like this. And I need to protect places like this. I want to understand places like this; I want to understand the science of the ecosystems that are its foundation, but I also want to be able to interact in them, through running, climbing and hiking so I can tap into the mysterious aspects of these that make me feel good, essentially. And hey- guess what- that’s what I’m doing! I’m studying conservation biology, I am climbing, I am running and I am tapping into the mental game… etc. I ran down the hill grinning from ear to ear.

I wrote that in my blog post Owen’s River Gorge that I published on April 2, 2014.

I am happy to say that less than a year later what I imagined actually came true-pretty literally. In the beginning of November I moved full-time to Bishop, CA after spending the summer traveling and climbing around the Sierra Nevada and in Eastern Europe. What brought me to Bishop was not the spectacular climbing or easy access to a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities (you can basically do everything here except go surfing), but an Americorps position focused on protecting the public lands here in the Eastern Sierra and making stewards out of users. I have been performing a variety of tasks focusing on watershed restoration but also touching on volunteer engagement and outreach. However, I won’t lie; living in Bishop was definitely a big factor in my decision to accept the position. The perks of living on the East Side have indeed been pretty sweet…

P.S.- warning, this is a loooong post.I’ve gone bouldering, a lot. Instead of going to the gym, I tend to swing over to the Tablelands on my lunch breaks to get in a quick session. I’ve done a few planting events at the Buttermilks and never fail to at least spend an hour or so playing around on the boulders after work.

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milks IMG_3179 Photos in Bishop. Happys.

The White Mountains flanked by the Volcanic Tablelands

Photos in Bishop. Happys.

Thunder Wall, in the Druids. One of the finest boulders in Bishop!

Thunder Wall, in the Druids. One of the finest boulders in Bishop!

On the weekends, I tend to head over to Owen’s River Gorge to go sport-climbing. My bouldering has already helped me make some noticeable gains; I’ve managed to onsight 12b for the first time, two weekends in a row. I on-sighted Flashflood at Penstock rock and Black Hole Sun at Solarium. I’m particularly content with this because both routes demand two very different skills-one demands power, the other endurance. I was also able to (barely) tick Phasers on Stun, the second 12c I’ve ever done, on my third go. Seems like despite not having a gym nearby and despite not doing a lot of pitches, my endurance hasn’t tanked too much and my power has increased. Yippee! Or, I’m just getting lucky. I also finally did Towering Inferno , the classic 5 pitch 11b that starts you off right with a sick traverse over the El Dorado Roof.

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The first pitch of Towering Inferno starts at the prominent crack on the right side of the photo and traverses left for a good 30-35 meters over the El Dorado Roof. If you look closely, you can see the chalk.

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Following the 2nd pitch of Towering Inferno

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The Dilithium Crystal Crag as seen from the west side of the Owen’s River

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I’ve also taken the opportunity to try some new things out, especially since I am living closer to snow than I ever have before. xcskiing_121714_hodzic_015-2 xcskiing_121714_hodzic_107-2 xcskiing_121714_hodzic_136-2 xcskiing_121714_hodzic_052-2 xcskiing_121714_hodzic_073-2 Bouldering at the happy on dec 7 2014 I went ice-skating on an Alpine Lake.. (well, two actually)

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And I also went Cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing for the first time. The landscape photos above were taken on these trips, at the Mammoth Lakes Basin and at Obsidian Dome, near June Lake.

Living in Bishop has also given me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of landscapes and ecosystems. A desert scrub landscape dominates the local scenery but a short 20 minute drive away and I can be in Bishop or Rock Creek, doubling my elevation and creeping toward the pine-dominated forests of the Sierras. Instead of buildings, my skyline is dominated by Mt. Tom and the Ritter range. This ability to observe and explore a variety of different ecosystems lends to a greater appreciation of different habitat types. It also has made me a more observant environmentalist.  But while I am thoroughly enjoying all that living here has to offer, I have not lost sight of my fundamental goal- to start a career protecting the landscapes I love. I fully believe that outdoor recreation and preservation use are not mutually exclusive but rather are intimately linked , especially as every year the world becomes more crowded and the demand for natural resources and places to recreate peacefully accelerates.

Typical scene (actually, this was a slow day) at the Happy's in the Volcanic Tablelands.  Our impact is great, let's all try to tread lightly!

Typical scene (actually, this was a slow day) at the Happy’s in the Volcanic Tablelands. Our impact is great, let’s all try to tread lightly!

Foothills of the White Mountains

Foothills of the White Mountains

Fish Slough, a desert wetland and an Area of Environmental Critical Concern. I've gone out here a number of times for work. It is a very unique and special ecosystem located only 5 miles from Bishop!

Fish Slough, a desert wetland and an Area of Environmental Critical Concern. I’ve gone out here a number of times for work. It is a very unique and special ecosystem located only 5 miles from Bishop!

For the past few years now I have kept abreast of the trajectory of the environmental movement worldwide, specifically with regards to the global response toward climate change. For the past few years now, I’ve been pretty dismayed at not only what I’ve read, but what I’ve experienced. Close to home, California is currently suffering through a fourth year of an unprecedented drought that doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon. By analyzing oak tree-rings scientists from  Massachusetts’ Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Minnesota. were able to estimate that this is the most severe drought California has experienced in 1200 years. Couple this with the fact that California absolutely shattered its warmest year on record “…running  4.1°F above its long-term average, besting its previous record set in 1934 by 1.7°F.” and you’ve got the ingredients for climactic changes that could devastate ecosystems and threaten the West’s already fragile water supply. (book recommendation- all Westerners should read Michael Reisner’s comprehensive “Cadillac Desert”) While some studies say that the drought was “caused” by human-induced climate change and others say it is due primarily to natural variability no one has really denied the fact that, no matter the cause, anthropogenic influence has made the drought more severe and more likely to occur again (you know, once it stops..). What really cannot be denied is that 1200 years ago, there certainly were not 38 million people living in a place in which water availability is sporadic at best. California has absolutely been covered in dams as we try to fumble with nature and control it to serve our needs as we have attempted to create paradise out of a desert.  What else is certain is that 1200 years ago California also wasn’t the “bread basket” of the West. The soil in California is among the best in the nation, but it is missing a key ingredient- reliable precipitation. (like much of the country west of the Mississippi)  Agriculture is not only a large part of the Californian economy, but CA farmers also feed much of the nation. California’s antiquated water laws have allowed for basically unregulated ground-water tapping, which is completely unsustainable and has caused the state to literally sink in some parts. Decreased snow pack has also hit the winter-recreation economy hard in places like the Sierra Nevada, in which ski seasons are shortened every year. At this very moment we are in what seems like yet another heat-wave that, due to low winds, has spurred the 7th spare-the-air day in a row in the Bay Area. With miserable snowpack and very spring-like days, this has been the driest January on record.

Meanwhile near apocolyctic predictions are being made by associations like NASA and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changing, warning that if we do nothing, modern civilization as we know it will likely collapse. 

So far, policy response to such dire, devastating warnings has been weak at best.

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however. Here in the United States, which has often been criticized as being hesitant to make strides to combat climate change, despite historically being the world’s greatest green-house gas emitter, news was made in June President Obama used his executive powers to circumvent a stalled Congress and instruct the Environmental Policy Agency (EPA) to create new regulations governing coal-power plant emissions. What happens to these new regulations once the new Republican-dominated Congress begins its two eyar long session will be interesting (and probably depressing) to see.  Luckily, while the Republicans can slow the implementation of these regulations, it would likely take a Republican President to completely slash them all together, which doesn’t seem likely since it goes against public opinion.

Another notable policy change was seen in China. Even more hesitant than the United States to act on climate change, the air-pollution in China is notoriously terrible. So, when China and the US – the world’s two biggest historic polluters- met and actually agreed on goals to cut emissions, it was hailed as a landmark first step. It is not as if these proposals are anything earth-shattering, in fact they are not even legally binding(China agreed to cap its emissions by 2030 and start to invest in clean energy) but they certainly represent at least a symbolic shift in global policy with regards to climate change.

random photo to break up the depressing text!

random photo to break up the depressing text!

Some environmentalists and news outlets have called 2014 the year in which we actually started to pay attention to cliamte change. A cliamte conference in Lima, Peru produced the very historical result that all countries, whether industrialized or not, dedicated to tackling climate change at home. This was the first time that it was recognized that although historically Western countries are most responsible for cliamte change, the problem won’t go away unless other countries such as China and India, which are experiencing rapid urban and population growth, also dedicate to reducing their emissions. The pact, again, was far from perfect. Countires will have to create their own rules but will not be legally bound by them. Still, it is a symbolic step forward and hopefully will pave the way to more concrete resolutions to be discussed in the next conference in Paris, occurring this year.

Still, the bad news constantly outweigh the good and I find myself disillusioned and tired. In addition, every time I hear of progress it seems to simply be news of future changes that won’t take affect until it is far too late- “such and such country will start to reduce emissions in ten years.” “x nation has passed a climate change resolution that will take effect in a few years…” The typical lag time of policy needs to be avoided if we are going to make any progress, but it seems all the more pronounced when it comes to cliamte change due to its very global nature. So, “why am I even bothering?” is a question that tends to cross my mind a lot. “IF the world is really going to turn into a melting pile of earth and civilization will collapse in 15 years, shouldn’t I just spend my time traveling and enjoying life while I can?” is another thought that zips by from time to time. 

A quote I recently read  in an New York Times article (about restoring forest health as a way of combating climate change- very interesting) brought human kind’s relationship with the earth home for me- ‘“For thousands of years, the march of civilization has been associated with converting natural ecosystems to crops that serve only man,” said Glenn Hurowitz, a managing director at Climate Advisers, a consultancy in Washington.”

But, let’s forget the facts for a second. I don’t purport to be some sort of climate expert just because I read environmental blogs. However, I do purport to be a human being with the ability to observe and question what I sense is changing around me. I sure as hell have noticed, for example, that it has been a lot warmer. In some sense, I should be happy with this. A mild, sunny winter means I can do all the things I want to do, from climbing to running, year round without too much hassle. But, for some reason, I can’t seem to shake the gray cloud that seems to have moved away from California and taken permanent residence over my own head. Walking around in short sleeves in December depresses me. Climbing in a sports bra in the dead of winter just doesn’t feel right.  Looking at the weather forecast and reading “sunny 60 degrees” for weeks on end in a place that should be averaging around 40 this time of year doesn’t make me feel lucky, it just ruins the shit out of my day. I am suffering from a case of climate trauma and I don’t know what to do about it.

more snow, please! Photo taken while snow-shoeing at Meiss Meadows near Carson Pass

more snow, please! Photo taken while snow-shoeing at Meiss Meadows near Carson Pass

This is where my New Years Resolution comes in.

I need to live the life I want to live in concert with my beliefs and try not to let what I can’t change affect my well-being.

Recently, I’ve retreated to my vegetarian (okay, occasional pescatarian) ways of eating because all the studies I read point to the fact that agriculture, from food production, processing and transportation, is one of the largest sources of heat-trapping gases which are responsible for climate change. Meat, especially red meat, is especially devastating for the environment; not only is meat a less efficient food source (The ratio of 1 lb of meat gained to carbon dioxide ratio is about 16:1 for beef, 4:1 for chicken), but the production of meat requires intensive land clearing to create cheap feed for the animals that we are then eating. It also is one of the leading causes of water degradation worldwide. Here is a handy table explaining the carbon footprint ranking of food. I got this from http://www.greeneatz.com/foods-carbon-footprint.html which got its figures from Figures from the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide and the EPA’s Guide to Passenger Vehicle Emissions.

Carbon Footprint Ranking of Food

The following table shows the greenhouse gas emissions produced by one kilo of each food. It includes all the emissions produced on the farm, in the factory, on the road, in the shop and in your home. It also shows how many miles you need to drive to produce that many greenhouse gases. For example, you need to drive 63 miles to produce the same emissions as eating one kilogram of beef.

Meat, cheese and eggs have the highest carbon footprint. Fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts have much lower carbon footprints. If you move towards a mainly vegetarian diet, you can have a large impact on your personal carbon footprint.

Rank

Food CO2 Kilos Equivalent Car Miles Equivalent

1

Lamb

39.2

91

2

Beef

27.0

63

3

Cheese

13.5

31

4

Pork

12.1

28

5

Turkey

10.9

25

6

Chicken

6.9

16

7

Tuna

6.1

14

8

Eggs

4.8

11

9

Potatoes

2.9

7

10

Rice

2.7

6

11

Nuts

2.3

5

12

Beans/tofu

2.0

4.5

13

Vegetables

2.0

4.5

14

Milk

1.9

4

15

Fruit

1.1

2.5

16

Lentils

0.9

2

Essentially, the more links between you and what you eat, the worse it is for the environment and the worse it is for you, which is why fruits, vegetables and grains are the most “climate friendly” food choices one can make. I won’t discuss the benefits to one’s health or animal rights that also come as a direct result of this type of “eco-friendly” diet here, besides just mentioning that they do exist. I should also mention that food waste is a devastating problem, especially in America where almost 40% of the food that we buy ends up un-used, in the trash.

in Bishop I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) box that was delivered bi-monlthy and was stocked full of good, seasonal veggies. Sorry the color is very weird in this photo, I blame the iphone

in Bishop I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) box that was delivered bi-monlthy and was stocked full of good, seasonal veggies. Sorry the color is very weird in this photo, I blame the iphone

  I also have committed myself to trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” I have. This may seem like a rather simple proposition but I think it is one of the most important changes I can make. Consumer culture (linked with capitalism) has been a dominant factor shaping Western (especially American) society for far too long. We feel empowered to buy the latest “things” and marketing campaigns are designed to exploit the fact that buying “stuff” release endorphins that make us feel good and reward the pleasure centers of our brain. Now, I’m no John Muir or Christopher McCandless; I am writing this blog-post on my laptop. My ipod shuffle is plugged into the side and my iphone is sitting on my desk, alerting me far too often about some new email or news update. But, I have resolved to buy what I can buy second hand and to FIX what I can fix before succumbing to buy some other piece of technology. I won’t upgrade my iphone just because I can and when my mac’s hard-drive failed last year I didn’t jump at the opportunity to buy another one, instead I opted to have mine fixed. I know this probably sounds insignificant and almost hypocritical,  but small things like this that aren’t too extreme (I’m not about to pull an Alexander McCandless and burn my passport) I believe, can go a long way into slowly chipping away at one’s personal consumer lifestyle. I do not think profound environmental change can happen until globally we embrace sustainability and resourcefulness over consumerism and trends. Until that happens, we will continue to degrade the earth until the very last precious metal can be extracted to create whatever new technology whatever rich guy wants to buy. The problem with the wealth inequality that capitalism promotes is that a very few can get whatever they want, at whatever price to the environment. We need to instead build upon a “Sharing economy” as is being done in certain European countries like Denmark. I experienced this while living in a co-housing situation for two years- it’s better for your wallet, your conscience and the environment if you capitalize on your neighbors’ skills and if you share possessions with those who you live near or with (for example, shared cleaning supplies)

But, most importantly, I choose to go outside as often as I can. I choose to explore and to ask questions about the changes I see in my environment. Through exploration, physical effort and mental challenges, I create links between the places I go and my own happiness and satisfaction. I don’t only do this in the wilderness on the East Side or in some of the world’s finest climbing crags.

Just like I did in March of last year, and like I did countless times before and certainly will countless times in the future, I spent my first morning of 2015 on a long run. This time, I was at home in the Bay Area, visiting my family for the holidays. I went to Fremont Older, an open space preserve in Santa Clara County that offers some very nice vistas of the bustling Silicon Valley and all of its buildings beneath it. On this New Year’s Day the air was crisp and the sky was clear, though a light layer of smog could be discerneda above downtown San José. Still, I heard and saw many different species of birds and abundant signage informed me of the presence of some large mammals, like mountain lions.

Fremont Older, with bustling Silicon Valley seen in the horizon

Fremont Older, with bustling Silicon Valley seen in the horizon

Preservation of natural areas certainly is vital to the sustainment of ecosystems and wild places, but places like Fremont Older also need to be protected and need to grow. It is in these areas where wildlife and human use are coupled where the future lies. In Bishop, I tend to run along Rovana Canal, where I often see several signs warning me against swimming in the bacteria-laden water and where l have to carefully cross over the many cattle guards that enclose cattle within bordering ranches and the canal’s boundaries. I will also flush out a beautiful, robust Great Blue Heron. I will see coyotes and prancing bucks, litter and dog crap. Still, I see the canal as having loads of potential as a place in which human use and wildlife needs don’t conflict, but actually are intimately tied. The healthier the area, the better of a run I will have and the better shot my friend the Heron will have at finding some food and successfully reproducing.

 We certainly won’t stop using land, but perhaps my generation can pave the way toward a new type of world in which humans aren’t at odds with all forms of wildlife, but perhaps are more knowledgeable (And humble) managers of open spaces and preserves. Where agriculture uses hedgerows to promote bird diversity and non-mono crop farming which promotes healthy soils takes hold. Where silviculture promotes uneven aged stands and where urban cities are lined with green spaces and trails. My hope lies here, in the intersection between human use of land and sustainability.

This is why I’ve chosen to cut my time here in Bishop short and move to San Francisco where I will work as a Restoration Technician for the Golden Gates Parks Conservancy, one of the many managers of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area- the largest urban park in the world. In a week’s time I will be working in the field full-time to implement restoration efforts that are directed to not only help the ecosystem return to a more healthier state, but also to facilitate people to come and interact with such places in a healthy, sustainable way. It will be hard to leave the outdoor paradise that is the Eastern Sierra, but in SF I think I will be able to do more good.

This “win-win” ecology will be a difficult equilibrium to strike but it is absolutely imperative that we achieve it. In fact, I know it is not possible to reverse much of the damage we have done to the planet. We as a society will have to adapt. This will be hardest for the poorest countries who have contributed the least to climate change. People will die, climate refugees will increase and we will see more and more species go extinct. But, it is not too late to at least stop some of the most catastrophic consequences and to reconstruct the way we live. To be honest, I don’t even believe that we can even do this quickly enough,-the problem is that I HAVE to believe this if I am going to be a healthy, sane individual who doesn’t spend her time obsessively looking at the weather report while a sunny day beckons me to go play outside. Writing this blog is one type of therapy for me, but I need some more help..

So, I’m reaching out to you, blogosphere- help me. Talk about climate change, bug your parents about it and your friends. Propose small changes to daily lifestyles that can promote more green living.  Dedicate at least one meatless day in your week. Buy in bulk. Walk to work. Contact your local policy makers and ask them to support policy that benefits the environment. Even if you think individual action is hopeless in the large scheme of things, realize that it is not hopeless when it comes to aiding the overly concerned like myself. Every time I see someone re-use their plastic bags at Vons or choose to ride his/her bike to work versus drive, that one gray cloud I was talking about starts to recede, at least for the moment. Then, I’m happier and maybe I won’t be such a cold, shrewd and unpleasant person 95% of the time. Also, in my personal experience, I’ve found that making these kinds of environmental changes tend to lead to a more fulfilling life. You are outside more, healthier and content with the general satisfaction that you are doing what is reasonable to combat our world’s largest threat.

Earlier I quoted Glenn Hurowitz as saying that “the march of civilization has been associated with converting natural ecosystems to crops that only serve man.” I left out the second half of that quote, the part that has given me a shred of hope that I will cling to as we move toward a new year. A year that will certainly be wrought with extreme climate events, but hopefully as well a year in which climate policy will move forward more quickly and local, individual actions will be taken more seriously by a global audience.

“What’s happening now is that we are trying to break that paradigm. If that succeeds, it’s going to be a major development in human history.”

So, here comes my second New Years Resolution- to use this blog as an outlet to highlight environmental updates, stories, consequences, solutions, etc. that I feel are important enough to spend 20 minutes writing about so that maybe my mom can read it and tell her coworkers about it.

I can only hope that perhaps by publishing one more blog among the better-written, more comprehensive and more often read alternatives out there will increase the probability- even by the most miniscule amount- that someone out there will think for one second longer about what his/her own personal impact, and maybe even bring it up for 5 minutes at the dinner table that night.

And, I hope that they’ll be eating lentils.

Stay tuned for what I think are environmental news stories worth mentioning, as well as the usual blogs of my adventures outside.

Happy New Year. (29 days too late)

My last day out monitoring at Fish Slough

My last day out monitoring at Fish Slough

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