This week in a sweeping gesture, the buffalo became the first national mammal of the United States. But it is just that, a gesture. For the sad truth for those who care to look beyond the glaze of regurgitated headlines and political half truths is that the American buffalo is persecuted still. In Yellowstone, the worlds first national park, America's last wild buffalo succumb to an axe wielded by the state of Montana to protect cowboys and their cows.
My head spins and my heart sinks when I read the environmental news every morning. Today's headlines in the second week of 2013 include a new colour added to maps because the heatwave in Australia has gone off the charts, 2012 was the warmest year on record, 11 elephants shot in Kenya by poachers, the Alberta Tar sands is poisoning the water all around it. Just a sampling. We are screwed. The planet is screaming at us and we still aren't listening. It has it's head out the window crying for help, trying to prevent itself from choking on the smoke of a burning building. What do we tell the kids? That we were so selfish, so shortsighted, so greedy, so maladjusted, so evil, so anthropocentric that we just kept calm and carried on? Right now is not the time to be calm and carry on, business as usual. That passed a while ago. Do we tell the kids that we did nothing to stop the destruction by the corporations, did nothing to curb our own desires for objects that don't matter, did nothing to save species being wiped out every day so some guy in Beijing or Manhattan could get it up? To we tell them that we did nothing to stop the poisoning of our only lifeline, the planet that feeds us, that gives us the air and the water the only things that really sustain life, sustain us? When will we take responsibility? Which day of which week? Which day of which year will you get up out of your bed and say 'okay it starts today'? When will you say 'Today'? Today I'm going to make some change, do something, curb back on inane desire for stuff, take a cause onboard, teach my kids what's really important, be a better parent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, daughter, son, be an example, a better example, help someone, stand up for the animals, stand apart from what has gone before so that what comes after is better for everyone and not just you? Which day is the day to stand up for a difference? When will be that day when we rise and really wake up? Let it be today. If there's anything we do today let it be this. On the 9th day of 2013, listen and do something.
Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park was flooded in 1913 to create a reservoir that would bring water and energy to the sprawling cities of California as far south as Los Angeles. In 2006 I made my first trip to this part of Yosemite. A few weeks later I found myself in the central valley of California near the Salton Sea after being in Joshua Tree National Park. In this part of the state where the land is basically desert and doesn't naturally support growth of anything substantial lies vast swaths of land that is developed for industrial agriculture that feeds on the water of Hetch Hetchy. This water is transported almost 400 miles to grow food for over burgeoning populations. Not forgetting of course the use of large amount of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In the space of 2 weeks I was seeing the water at both ends of it's journey. From the crystal clear fresh snow melt waters of Yosemite's majestic Tuolomne River that roars through granite canyons until the O'Shaughnessy dam disturbs it's flow, to the fields of unnatural food and industrial farms that defy nature. An industrial complex that will ultimately defy us as we abuse it. If we lose our connection to the source of the food and water that sustain us we fail to understand a basic rule of life.
These pictures were taken on a 4 day hike on the weekend of June 13th 2009 into the backcountry of the Yosemite wilderness. we went into an area called Jack Main Canyon and our final destination a place called Wilma lake. We covered a total of 46 miles round trip starting at 3815ft and reaching just under 8000ft at Wilma. Many areas were water logged as we were still in melt run off season. Twice I had to wade in water and there was plenty of bushwacking. The toughest part of it was climbing out of the mouth of the canyon on the way back out. The first night at Backpackers campsite was marked with what I thought was a strobe light going off in my face and then realizing no I was not in the studio anymore. That was a nice bolt of lightning. 3 seconds later it was followed with one huge crack of thunder right over our heads. I turned to my backcountry partner and gave him a little smile. Despite it's obvious danger in the mountains I do get excited sometime by a darn good electrical storm. It's the elements. Mother Nature doing her thing. The storm clouds lingered for the whole entire time we were there, menacingly overhead, but the storm never came. The rain began to drizzle down on our last day when we were only just a mile from our exit from the wilderness.
No bears at all on this trip which has to be the first trip in a long long time into Yosemite that I have not seen a bear somewhere. Managed some twilight visits from deer to our camp though. One was a big guy with horns and he wasn't shy. He looked rather stately.
There isn't much that a walk into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada can't do for me. It challenges me on all levels and gives me the space, solace and comfort to think about who I am, what I want out of my life and how I want the planet to be and finally to accept everything that comes my way no matter how it comes. It revitalizes and it inspires. When I walk in nature, nature walks in me and life is good.