Day two at ISSRM got off to a great start with MTU environmental historian Nancy Langston‘s rich tale of mining waste, public health, indigenous culture, wetland ecosystems and politics around Lake Superior. Her stage presence was engaging but also graceful; she almost danced the story. This was followed by two data-rich reflections on the challenges of survey methodologies by Rich Stedman and Doug Jackson Smith (a great follow-up to Josh Fergen’s talk yesterday), after which I hopped over to session D in our Energy Landscapes mini-conference to learn about biomass fuels and ecosystem service perceptions. After lunch, our culminating mini-conference panel was a great success, ably chaired by Tom Beckley after I came down with laryngitis. Great observations were offered up by all panel members to get things started, including some questioning the vocabulary of the session title itself: landscapes, transitions, etc. About thirty in the audience provided great prompts for the panel, covering different energy source trade-offs, useful theory, viable policy settings, important social questions and more, offering optimistic and more apocalyptic scenarios. The final parallel session of the day had Tom recounting the NB Electricity Futures Citizen Jury, and Chris Clarke talking about psychological distance in acceptability of shale gas (complementary with Anne Junod’s description of the ‘Goldilocks zone’ yesterday). A very ‘energetic’ day.
A great first day at ISSRM in Houghton, MI, with most of our affiliated folks presenting. Yan Chen, Taylor Cudney and John Parkins all did a great job launching off the Energy Landscapes mini-conference (as organizers have called it), in the session I chaired in the morning. Simon Greenland-Smith presented his analysis of our Nova Scotia marginal land survey data in the afternoon, and Kate Goodale and I both presented posters in the evening. Afterwards, the generous folks at the University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability organized a get-together for Canadians on the Keweenaw Waterway, a semi-natural channel cut between the peninsula’s lakes in the 1860s to expedite boat traffic. It was a beautiful drawn-out sunset in another long day.
I’m enjoying a stopover in Chicago on the way to the ISSRM in Michigan. The city has always been of interest to me, as a once-aspiring architect and child of the 80s, but this has been my first chance to visit. I re-watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the flight here (happy 30th birthday), and headed straight for Frank Lloyd Wright sites in Oak Park upon arrival. A real highlight of my visit has been the Art Institute of Chicago special exhibition America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s. This expertly curated and described exhibition explores the response of artists to the ‘fall from grace’ that America felt after the stock market crash of 1929: some looking backward to pastoral ideals and others conveying dust bowl realities; showing stoic tradition or grotesque modern life; and documenting the dominance of industry in landscape and economic life conveyed as utopias (in some work sponsored by corporations) or the opposite by socialists. The industrial (Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth) and agricultural (Grant Wood, Alexander Hogue, Marvin Cone) landscapes were particularly compelling to me: telling of fears and hopes, as well as ambivalence. Functional landscapes were in eye as well as in mind as I travelled Chicago by L-train (elevated), which provides a great view of the working parts of the city, as well as its unique features such as the dominance of brick construction, steel bridges (including old drawbridges) over its many rivers, and water towers (which may have something to do with the Great Fire of Chicago, ca. 1871). I was also reminded of urban/nature juxtapositions at the wonderful Garfield Park Conservatory, where the marvelous fern room brought relief on a very hot day, in how the City Garden meadow beautifully framed industrial buildings. I look forward to returning to Chicago, maybe in a cooler season.
In the months leading up to the Mactaquac decision, the editorial pages of the Telegraph Journal is filling up with opinion pieces. Early in May, Keith Helmuth of the Woodstock Sustainable Energy Research group (who was an expert at our citizen jury) spoke out for dam removal, looking towards more efficient, greener energy options for the same investment and a boon for agricultural production. LarryJewett of Lakeway Houseboat Rental on the headpond (who rented us the houseboats we used for floating focus groups in 2013), and Friends of Mactaquac Lake, responded to support the rebuilding of the dam and generating station, for the local amenity it has become. Since then, Peter Cronin of the Atlantic Salmon Federation has responded to both in a two part commentary (1 and 2), supporting dam removal to foster a healthy river and restore fish stocks, among other things. While TJ has a firewall, as a subscriber the commentaries are just as interesting. A recent blog post on the NiCHE website by once-NB now-Maine environmental historian, Mark McLaughlin, uses our Before the Mactaquac Dam storymap to illustrate the need for academics to avoid focusing on stories of environmental decline: dams dramatically change landscapes and ecosystems, but are the exception among infrastructure in creating new amenity. I’m heading next week to the ISSRM meeting in Michigan, where I am co-convening a five-session stream on energy landscapes and transitions, which will examine just such trade-offs.
Thrilled to spend half of my day with my old friend and colleague from New Orleans, geologist Mark Kulp. Mark has been bringing his expertise to the front lines of coastal disasters over the last few decades: first, the steep trajectory of Louisiana coastal wetland loss and the subsequent devastation of Hurricane Katrina; and then the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where he ran one of the SCAT triage teams to assess damage and plan response and is still tied up with expert opinion around the subsequent litigation. It is the oil spill work that brings him north, on a trip to discuss remediation options around oil spills, including a field trip to the Arrow, wrecked in 1970 off Isle Madame with a payload of Bunker C crude oil (only recently removed). Great to hear news of shared friends and learn about the online Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society course he has been developing with colleagues at UNO, Penn State and Shippensburg. We hit the Armview and Pavia at Herring Cove, both highlights on the fringe of the Halifax Peninsula.