Saturday, 31 July 2021

Saturday Photo: To Bee or Not to Bee...

The bees are out, thank goodness.  In this time of so many things not going right, it's a pleasure to see them at work in the 'hood.

It helps that there are several bee hives hidden around, so in addition to the native bees we have some honey bees.  It also helps that gardens tend to be of two types.  One has no pesticides because the owners don't care for their yards.  The other has none either, because the owners more or less have bought into organic gardening. 


Saturday, 24 July 2021

Saturday Photo: In Memory of Everyone Who Died before Their Time

My sister Laurie died suddenly in July 2002.  She was beautiful, as well as being smart and exceedingly concerned about justice.  Here is the day Lee and I got married: a good memory.

In this period of far too many premature deaths, I offer my condolences to those who loved, and who now continue living.  The hole in the heart never fills...

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Saturday Photo: The Rapids Where the Going Gets Tough, If Not Impossible

 Spent a lovely few hours last Sunday at the Parc des rapides on the St. Lawrence.  These rapids and the St. Mary's rapid to the east effectively blocked sailing ships from going up the great river.  The first canal around the rapids was built in the late 18th century, and since the 1950s all ships have avoided them by using the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Living in the middle of the island of Montreal, it's easy to forget just how powerful the river is.  Standing next to the rapids and watching the terns fish in them was a good reminder of that.  There are forces bigger than us, even if we try to get around them.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Saturday Photo: Wayward Grass....

 The view at the Technoparc last Sunday: grasses and clouds and birds.  There was a time that we did a lo of bird-watching, but kids and dogs got in the way.  Now that we have neither in the house, we've gone back to a little low key bird-watching, which has led to the discovery of a number of interesting places that we wouldn't have visited otherwise.

The Technoparc is a a parcel of land that some would like to develop but which so far has lain fallow.  It's tucked right up next to Trudeau airport, which would at first glance seem to be not the best place for a bird santuary.  What's more, there must have been times in the not to distant past when parts of the ponds were partially drained for some kind of project.  But at the moment, the 215 hectares are a refuge for a wealth of bird life.  Some animals also call it home: we saw a lot of rabbits last week, so many that I wonder if the ecosystem couldn't use a fox or two.

The grass and reeds are as tall as I am right now, and the mosquitos are as big as my fist--no, that's an exaggeration included only to warn the wary. Great space to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Saturday Unphoto: From Bloomberg Green on Wild Fire


By Linda Poon

The worst day for human-caused fires in the U.S. is July 4. That’s a particular problem this year, as a historic heat wave and record drought have exacerbated the risk of wildfires.

That’s why more than 150 fire scientists signed a letter this week urging people in the West to skip fireworks this Independence Day, just as the U.S. enters peak wildfire season. Blazes are already raging in several states, with some spreading through tens of thousands of acres in California, Colorado and Arizona. 

In response, some cities and counties in California, Oregon, Arizona and Utah have canceled public displays, and imposed restrictions or outright bans on the use of personal fireworks. But it won’t be easy to tamp down that bombastic American tradition.

Some places like Aspen, Colorado, are trying out alternative flashy displays. At the popular “Old Fashioned Fourth of July'' festival, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association is hoping to dazzle attendees with a laser show instead of traditional fireworks. In 2018, the association tried a choreographed drone display. “You have to evolve,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg CityLab that year — but smoke from a wildfire that broke out just a day before the holiday canceled that show, too. 

Other places are cracking down on personal use, which can be especially risky and became a more popular hobby during the pandemic. In the San Francisco Bay Area, sheriffs confiscated 15,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, along with $1 million in cash, from two residents who were also operating illegal sales out of a warehouse in Oakland. In a dramatic twist of events in Los Angeles Wednesday night, police who were seizing homemade fireworks caused an accidental explosion as they were attempting to safely detonate the explosives. Seventeen people were injured, including police, in the blast that destroyed the specialized bomb truck containing the fireworks. 

L.A. is also using incentives to dissuade people from setting off their own fireworks. The police department launched a buyback program on Wednesday, receiving some 500 pounds of fireworks in exchange for gift cards. And police are sending cease-and-desist letters to online marketplaces like Craigslist that were hosting illegal sales.

Fires are not the only environmental concern. Cities in China have banned fireworks before to prevent spikes in air pollution. In the U.S., fireworks release 42% more pollutants into the air than on a normal day, according to a 2020 study.

But as the effects of climate change worsen, wildfires loom large as an urgent reason to rethink the explosive pastime. “We're getting to the point where we need to think seriously about restricting the use of fireworks,” says Jennifer Balch, a fire ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “Frankly, we're asking too much of our firefighters who are probably hunkered down waiting to see where the wildfires are going to start.”

Between 1992 and 2015, humans started 7,000 wildfires on July 4, according to Balch. Of all the fires reported that day from 2014 to 2018, more than half were sparked by fireworks, according to a separate analysis from the National Fire Prevention Association. Experts warn that extreme hot and dry conditions enable sparks and falling embers to more easily ignite trees, shrubs and other vegetation. The slightest breeze can carry that fire far and wide.

In 2017, a teen sparked the massive Eagle Creek Fire by throwing two fireworks into the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. It raged for three months, blowing some into Portland and burning through nearly 50,000 acres of land. And in 2020, a smoke-generating “pyrotechnic device” set off during a baby gender reveal party ignited the El Dorado fire, which tore through more than 22,000 acres of San Bernardino County, California.

The percent of wildfires caused by humans has inched up over the last few years. “That's something that's also very much related to our development patterns and our settlement, in that we are building more and more homes into flammable landscapes," Balch says. 

Despite the warnings, the show must go on for some Americans — with some calling the city bans “anti-American” and at least one state’s legislative leaders refraining from any statewide action. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has been pushing the Biden administration to allow fireworks at Mount Rushmore, after the National Parks Service denied the state’s request in March. Fireworks there have been halted since 2009 due to safety concerns, including fire hazards. They resumed for the first time last year under Donald Trump’s presidency. 

But with large swaths of America already on fire, and 2021 setting the perfect conditions for yet another intense wildfire season, perhaps the most patriotic thing for those in the American West to do is lay off the pyrotechnics.