Song of Solace

This summer I am taking a geology class at Stanford, and last week we were talking about the Sierra Nevada’s exfoliated granite domes. On the hour-long drive home, the class discussion got me thinking about my first extended backpack years ago in the Mineral King backcountry with my brother Jim. We were woefully unprepared: although […]

Moving by Degrees

Pictures of the oil-drenched pelicans befouled by the dark tendrils of death currently spreading across the Gulf of Mexico are a symbol of the heartbreaking cost of our fossil fuel dependence. But when the Gulf catastrophe eventually recedes, we will still be faced with the steep price exacted on the biosphere by the human release […]

Burrowing owls: The bonus tracks

Here are some additional photos to accompany my recent burrowing owl article in Smithsonian Magazine. These are images of biologist Jack Barclay banding burrowing owls that were nesting in artificial burrows at the margins of a golf course in Davis, CA. And finally, one more image from wildlife photographer Susan McConnell.

Rachel Carson remembered

Rachel Carson died on this day in 1964. Although she was already a well-known writer prior to Silent Spring, she is best remembered for this book that made the case against the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides such as DDT. In clear lyrical prose, her work focused attention on the danger these chemicals posed to wildlife […]

A familiar (and unnecessary) story

This morning the Los Angeles Times carried an article about three condors in Arizona that died from ingesting lead bullet fragments left behind in hunter-shot game. This old, sad story is so unnecessary. In 1984, it was first proved that condors—who are carrion eaters—were being poisoned when they inadvertently ingested lead bullet fragments left behind […]

A landmark year in environmental history

Certain years are forever linked to events that reverberate down through history. I’m thinking of examples such as 1492 or 1776. So what’s the most important year in environmental history? Ummm, well, maybe not so obvious. I would like to propose the year 1859 as a candidate for one of the significant turning points in […]

Remembering the River

Welcome to my new blog. I’ll begin by telling you a story: When I was eight years old, I undertook the hardest hike of my life, a seven-mile roundtrip trek up and down 2,000 feet of High Sierra granite to the top of Nevada Falls. My dad had suggested the hike the night before while […]