The splendor of the glaciers. The melting of the glaciers. Breathtaking views of wildlife. Diminishing numbers of wildlife. This is the back-and-forth journey readers take through Michael Lanza’s 2012 book, Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.
Lanza, an outdoors writer and photographer, takes his family on a series of adventures through 10 national parks: Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier Bay, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, and the Everglades. He weaves together tales of his children’s antics and interests on the trails with research about the effects of climate change at each park they visit.
3.The Dark Mountain Project’s Dougald Hine interviews Jem Bendell, a professor of sustainability leadership at the University of Cumbria, in the U.K., about resilience, relinquishment, and restoration. Alongside that element of the discussion is this wonderful, and metaphoric, anecdote about a response following one of his talks:
“I remember one lady came up to me and said she used to be a pilot in the Outback of Australia and in her training, they used to do quite a spooky exercise which was called ‘extend the glide’. And it’s about, if the aircraft has a problem with the engines and they cut out, how do you then extend the glide to just give yourself more time to find yourself a safer place for the crash landing, but also on the off-chance that the engines might kick in again. And she said, that’s what you’re inviting us to start working on: how do we extend the glide?”
(You can read Bendell’s thoughts on the interview here.)
4. A lunar halo, as viewed in Chile, was named the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang’s picture of the week.
5. Poet Robert Cording’s prose piece, Cloud Shapes and Oak Trees, about art and experience. Keep reading, and you’ll get to a beautiful set of beliefs he issues later in the piece, introducing them with these lines:
“I often ask my students to write a statement of what they believe and what they would like their writing to accomplish. In that spirit, here’s my own little credo. I believe words evoke and depend on a reality apart from the acts of verbal reference, although poetry and, to my mind, theology are as Wallace Stevens said, ‘a revelation in words by means of words.’ I write, first and foremost, to honor the mystery of creation. Here are some of the assumptions that underlie my work…”
Among those assumptions are this one, which I include because I appreciate it when writers quote Wendell Berry:
“We must love this world—not to figure it out or even understand it, but as Wendell Berry says, ‘to suffer it and rejoice in it as it is.'”
About 15 years or so ago, I participated in my first, and one of only a few, walks “for a cause.” It was a breast cancer awareness walk that began near the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball stadium in Camden, NJ, and traveled across the Ben Franklin Bridge. I sat at home with my parents early that morning, in the lingering drizzle after a rainy night, debating whether or not we should actually go. On the one hand, we’d planned to meet another group there. On the other, we’d already made donations to the organization that had planned the walk, and it was still raining.
We ended up going, and the rain largely subsided by the time the walk began, but the nature of our debate stayed with me. I’ve often wondered what the usefulness of the walking itself is in these scenarios when the ultimate purpose is to raise money; it’s easy enough to make a donation with a few clicks on a screen without ever getting off the couch. Yet in the past week, in the midst of so many walks for causes, I may be starting to understand. Walking with others can be a show of camaraderie, a show of force, a show of unity.