Photo by Om. Made with Leica SL.

I was recently speaking with Jeff Olsen, a former park ranger turned tour guide, at Grand Teton National Park. As we cruised around in his big truck looking for the elusive wildlife, he pointed out the destructive role of Instagram in attracting hordes of people to iconic (and not so iconic) locations in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. His insights were sobering and prompted no small amount of self-reflection on my part.

Like many of those tourists, I have found myself making a beeline to these two National Parks — after all, there are a short flight away from San Francisco. They give me a chance to explore the landscape in search of visual Zen. While I may not be looking for the perfect selfie, I am seeking the unique splendor of these sacred places. But such opportunities may be dwindling. The harsh reality is that these beautiful environments might be vanishing right before our eyes (or maybe right behind our Instagram filters). 

The influx of self-interested visitors comes at a particularly fragile time. A new research report offers a very sobering assessment of the harsh reality of the Yellowstone ecosystem. “The climate assessment says that temperatures in the park are now as high or higher as during any period in the last 20,000 years and are very likely the warmest in the past 800,000 years,” writes Adam Popescu for Yale Environment 360. Some salient findings: 

  • Since 1950, Yellowstone experienced an average temperature increase of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the most pronounced warming occurring at elevations above 5,000 feet.
  • Peak annual stream runoff is eight days earlier than in 1950.
  • Annual snowfall has declined by nearly two feet since 1950.

No matter how much deniers remain willfully blind to the realities of climate change, the facts can’t be ignored. We have record heat waves in the Western and the Southwestern United States. Two photographer friends based in Jackson Hole recently pinged me about temperatures in the upper 90s, sharing photos of Tetons without snow — a surreal sight. 

Photo by Om. Made with Leica SL.

And as Popescu writes, if the current trends stay intact, this could become a norm for “towns and cities in the Greater Yellowstone Area — including Bozeman, Montana and Jackson, Pinedale, and Cody, Wyoming” who will see up to 60 days of temperatures above 90 degrees. In my numerous photography trips, I have learned a lot about the ecosystem’s delicate balance. This heat will disrupt the food chain, and the effects on wildlife and nature are going to be devastating. 

Photography has significantly enhanced my understanding of nature and the world around me. As someone who grew up in a densely populated city, I only awakened to my environmental responsibility about a decade ago. When placing myself in the context of our planet, I have become acutely aware of my impact and my subsequent responsibilities. Both in my daily life and when I’m traveling, I do what I can to make sure someone else in the future will have a chance to enjoy nature’s bounty as much as I have in my recent years. 

I have a deep fondness for national parks and none more than the Yellowstone. This new report makes me fearful for what awaits us. Here are a handful of photos from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons of what we might lose due to accelerated climate change.

June 28, 2021. San Francisco.


Photo by Om. Made with Leica SL.

  1. Another one bites the dust! There was a time when I madly listed for the Prada Phone by LG. It was like iPhone before iPhone.  LG recently announced that it was leaving the phone business for good. Such a shame. LG never “capitalized on the household name recognition” and “was beset by an inferiority complex to crosstown rival Samsung,” writes Roger Cheng, in this close examination of what went wrong at LG. This great read — and it highlights that to win, you need to overcome self-doubt. Research firm TrendForce data shows that LG made 30.6 million smartphones in 2020 – a 2.4% market share that equals ninth place in the global ranking of smartphone brands based on 2020 production volume.
  2. Abandoned Disasters: The unseen climate disaster in plain sight — that is how I would describe the growing problem of abandoned oil and gas wells. The Girst has conducted a wide-ranging investigation and found that, led by Texas and New Mexico, these abandoned wells are accelerating the release of dangerous methane into the environment, in addition to polluting the groundwater. This story is so horrifying, and it made me angry. The short-sighted nature of our society and our agencies is infuriating. Have a read, and decide for yourself.
  3. What great branding by pasta-maker Barilla. Listen to Spotify and make perfect pasta. Moody day linguine is my favorite. 
  4. What compels us to jot down poetry and poetic thoughts in our Notes app, of all places? I didn’t know, so I read this article.
  5. I was on Stacey Higginbotham’s podcast and we talked about ARM’s new chip architecture and future version of Bluetooth, apart from the usual banter between two former colleagues.  ARM, by the way, is the company whose IP is powering most of the smartphones on the planet, amongst other things. 
  6. The unexpected history and miraculous success of vaccines is a great read from Matt Ridley, one of my favorite writers. It is also a great reminder that humans have always resisted vaccination, and through history, have greeted them with scorn and suspicion. 
  7. Why such a big fuss about the Moun-g-2 particle experiment. If you are a science-savvy and physics enthusiast, a good explainer from Symmetry magazine.
  8. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has a new report. 756 pages. It is worth reading, especially if you think the future and American influence are tied to technology. 
  9. “I believe in open source, and if WordPress isn’t a good fit for you, there are other great open source communities. We also have a great relationship with some of our proprietary competitors, and I have huge respect for the teams at Shopify and Squarespace, and even though we compete, I’ve always seen them operate with integrity, and I’d recommend them without hesitation.” Matt Mullenweg, CEO Automattic. Wix and Their Dirty Tricks – Matt Mullenweg

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The kinds of programs that we have now, AI algorithms, don’t have the ability to replace a human. A human is still going to be the best at being able to generate creative, interesting stories and to be able to compose a unique song.” Dr. Jane Wang, senior research scientist, DeepMind . [via LDV Capital]


Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. Even the cold snaps and the impact of climate change! “I think the Texas freeze will become the new poster child for compound weather and energy disasters,” atmospheric scientist Daniel Cohan of Rice University told Yale Climate Connections. “Why the power is out in Texas … and why other states are vulnerable too” is a must-read article about the recent storms. More importantly, it points to our power’ grid’ vulnerability and the lack of long-term resilience in our infrastructure against climate change. 

As a society, we often look for a Big Bang-like event to shake us through our slumber, but climate change is different. It is more like a boxer getting hit in the head and not noticing that his brain was turning to mush. The denialism around anything based on science is a disease that is the real problem for America.

“As climate change escalates and disrupts weather patterns, our country must update the grid, immediately, or risk losing not only power but lives,” warned environmental scientist Urooj Raja of the University of Colorado Boulder. Will we listen?  If our response to the pandemic is any indication, then the increased tribalism and politicization around climate change will be worse. 

Read article on Bob Henson, Eye On The Storm