Colorado is up in flames. Lonesome George is dead. And sea levels are rising so fast on the East Coast that a mere Nor’easter could soon devastate Boston. To put it lightly, things are not looking good for the outdoors.
June has been a rough month, and the news keeps getting worse. Not only is the water rising—it’s getting dirtier, too. And if you thought Colorado's forests were set to recover from the recent fires, think again. Get yourself ready to say goodbye to green mountains. A perfect storm of warm winters, long-lasting drought, and beetle infestation (think drill bits, only smaller and more efficient) are set to transform the West. In the summer of 2012, fires no longer clear the way for rebirth; they climb into the canopy and doom regeneration. Our forests are changing, and there might not be a thing we can do about it.
Meanwhile, the African savannah is set to become dotted with the very greenery the West is losing, if you believe a new study published in Nature, because atmospheric carbon dioxide is fertilizing plant growth. With open savanna set to become forested by 2100, the unique plants and animals that call the continent home are coming under threat (on the upside, seeding forest growth across a swath of Africa might be a good way to sequester carbon).
To add to the ecological mess, politicians are doing their best to do no good. Park closures threaten our enjoyment of the outdoors. In May, California announced that it will be closing 70 of 279 state parks. While valiant local and regional efforts have lowered that count to 54, the message is clear: Nature is on the chopping block. A mere $22 million California state park budget shortfall threatens to close such gems as a Monterey surf break at Moss Landing and climbing routes at Castle Rock. (To put that in perspective, a Denver Olympic bid would cost between $27 and $45 million, albeit covered by private sponsors.)
Beyond the doom and gloom, there is actually some good news: Progress is being made on establishing a large and economically productive national park in northern Maine and a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of allowing the E.P.A. to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because they do, in fact, contribute to global warming.
If the theme of the week is ecological disaster and its intersection with politics, these are the five articles you should be reading this weekend:
How beetles no bigger than a grain of rice are killing lodgepole pines nearly 100-feet tall and what that means for the West. Alan Prendergast, Denver Westword