Celestial trifecta

The Super Blue Blood Moon did not look like this from the second floor bedroom of our Westwood, Kansas home. There were branches. There were other houses. It was setting (at totality) about the time the sun was coming up on the opposite horizon, so we only got to see the Frog eat the Moon, but then he ran away with it, below the horizon.

This moon looks way cooler than ours did–but I’m still glad we got up for it.

It was still totally worth getting up for. For one thing, it wasn’t cloudy! We had a total eclipse of the sun in the Kansas City area last August, and it was totally socked in and raining at totality, where we were. So we saw it get dark. We saw the 360-degree sunset. But we barely got to use our solar sunglasses at all.

Somewhere up there a solar eclipse was happening. Very frustrating.
The cloudy “wrap-around” sunset, mid-afternoon August 21, 2017, taken without the proper filter so it doesn’t look as red as it did in real life.

I’ve been pretty busy, these past few weeks, but some things just must be taken time for. The main thing I’ve been doing is making a final push to finish my novel. If all goes well, I’ll be done by Sunday with this part of the writing.

And presumably, the Frog will give us the Moon back tonight.

IMAGES: The gorgeous photo of a previous (September 2017) Super Blue Blood Moon, by real NASA-affiliated photographer Dominique Dierick, is courtesy of Sky News. Thank you! The two “Alleged Eclipse” photos are ones I took last August with my trusty iPhone 6, at my friend Marna’s farm.

No hypothetical threats, these

My Artdog Images of Interest for most of this month have focused on places of natural wonder that are under threat, with the hope that–if we’re working to build a better future–they still can be preserved. Mining hasn’t happened at the Grand Canyon yet. No one has begun to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge . . . yet.

Grand Escalante, at left in blue, with a significantly reduced footprint; the decimated Bears Ears at right in red.

Unfortunately, my subjects today aren’t under hypothetical threatThe Very Stable Genius in Chief has already decimated two national monuments in Utah, with great fanfare and self-congratulation for rolling back a “massive federal land grab,” and striking a blow for “states’ rights.”  (Side note: Ever notice how it was “opening the West,” when Europeans invaded tribal homelands, but it’s a “massive federal land grab” when white ranchers’ or mineral developers’ access is restricted?)

It should be no surprise that indigenous groups, including the Navajo Nation, and environmentalists have launched protests and filed lawsuits, but were not consulted when the boundaries were redrawn.

Granted, some of the more spectacular sites, such as the Dry Fork Slot Canyons, (including PeekaBoo and Spooky, featured in the video above) and the Toadstool Hoodoos still remain in Wilderness Study Areas, and thus are mostly still protected from development.

A somewhat unique view of the Toadstool Hoodoos, still in a Wilderness Study Area (no thanks to Mr. Trump).

Other areas? Not so much. Despite the economic stimulus brought to southern Utah by a tourism boom after President Clinton’s designation of the Kaiparowits Plateau (with its Late Cretaceous “Dinosaur Shangri-La” fossil beds) as part of Grand Escalante National Monument, Mr. Trump’s administration seems to have listened only to the mining and oil interests who have long bemoaned “that the Staircase monument has strangled economic development in Kane and Garfield counties for the past 21 years.” The area is now available once again for renewal of dormant oil and gas leases, or the granting of new ones.

If you follow paleontology at all, you probably already know about the Kaiparowits Plateau, the scene of many important finds over the last two decades since Clinton protected them. Just last October, paleontologists announced a major new find. “With at least 75 percent of its bones preserved, this is the most complete skeleton of a tyrannosaur ever discovered in the southwestern US,” said Dr. Randall Irmis of the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Future finds such as this newly-discovered Tyrannosaur skeleton may soon be at risk from nearby mineral development.

Equally endangered are many ancient cultural sites in places such as the Dark Canyon Wilderness, Cedar Mesa, and the White Canyon area, which are now more open to less-restricted public access, along with the near-certainty of looting and vandalism“Only a very small part of this area has been subject to a cultural resources inventory,” Tim Peterson, a program director at the Grand Canyon Trust told Nadja Popovich of the New York Times in December.

Not-so-protected petroglyphs from what used to be part of Bears Ears National Monument–photo by Mason Cummings.
Cliff dwellings such as this one in the Dark Canyon Wilderness are now more vulnerable to looting and vandalism, much to the dismay of local tribal groups and others concerned with preserving cultural sites in the area that until recently was part of Bears Ears National Monument.

We may never know everything we stand to lose, in the wake of this Trumpian downsizing move. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned so much–but which appears to be another likely result–is the loss of wildlife corridors, particularly because there will be fewer restrictions on development.

So–is all now lost? No. Environmental and tribal groups already have already filed lawsuits to block Trump’s changes to these two monuments. If you feel strongly about this, two immediate paths of action are available.

First, donate to groups such as The Sierra Club or Natural Resources Defense Council, which are among the ten environmental groups that have filed suit, or the Native American Rights Fund, which CNN reported is representing the Hopi, Zuni and Ute Mountain Ute in the lawsuit.

Second, write or call your representatives in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, to let them know your opinion. They can’t directly block an executive action, but they do have to weigh in on any changes to Wilderness Study Areas, among other things, and they are in charge of funding decisions. Contrary to the intransigence I often receive from the three men who purport to represent me in Washington (Rep. Kevin Yoder, Sen. Pat Roberts, and Sen. Jerry Moran), SOME people’s elected representatives even listen to them!

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune for the map showing original and shrunken outlines of the two national monuments (the article was written before the official changes, but the maps turned out to be pretty accurate). I also am grateful to Climb Utah and YouTube for information and the imagery from the Dry Fork Slot Canyons; to TripAdvisor’s article about the Toadstool Hoodoos for the photo of that feature (check the page for many more photos!); and to the Natural History Museum of Utah, for the photo of the newly-discovered tyrannosaur fossil from the Kaiparowits Plateau. Many thanks also to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and photographer Mason Cummings, for the photo of petroglyphs in one of the newly-exposed areas that used to be part of Bears Ears National Monument, and to the US Forest Service, via Howard Myerson’s “The Outdoor Journal,” for the photo of a cliff dwelling in the Dark Canyon Wilderness.

Drill, baby, drill?

The Artdog Images of Interest

As I noted last week, this month’s theme is working toward a better future, and my Images of Interest for the rest of the month feature amazing places in the United States that are threatened or actively under attack. As long as they continue to exist, we can still fight to save them, even if things are looking bad at the moment.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is one such place that is under threat. Not immediately, but the Trump Administration has green-lighted the initiative to begin drilling there, so the process has definitely started. 

What kind of damage is that likely to do? That first link may have a dated lede, but the rest still applies. It’s also true that tundra “heals” after disruption extremely slowly.

ANWR is so enormous, no single picture can hope to capture its variety and beauty. It’s true that five won’t do it either, but I’ve tried to find a good variety to give a small taste of what’s at stake.

IMAGES: Many thanks to William Bonilla and Defenders of Wildlife for the polar bear photo taken in the ANWR; to Robert Salazar and Origami for an Interdependent World (what a cool idea!), for the photo of the famous Porcupine Caribou, a subspecies; to Peter Mather and The Wilderness Society for the lakeshore-and-clouds image from the refuge; to Florian Schulz and The Audubon Society for the aerial photo of the braided river, plains and mountains in the refuge; and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the photo of the mountain foothills. sloping down to a plain in the ANWR. I deeply appreciate all!

Mining here?

The Artdog Image of Interest 

In keeping with this month’s theme of working toward a better future, my Images of Interest for the rest of the month will feature amazing places in the United States that are threatened or actively under attack. As long as they continue to exist, we can still fight to save them, even if things are looking bad at the moment.

Today’s image is a stunning photo of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset, chosen in response to the current administration’s recent (early November) moves toward opening areas adjacent to the second-most-popular US national park for uranium mining, despite the concerns of environmental groups and local Native American groups. Local mining interests have been opposed to an Obama-era ban on such mining since it was put in place in 2012.

IMAGE: This photo appears to have originated on Shutterstock (photo by Erik Harrison), but it has migrated widely all over the Internet since it was listed in 2014 (thanks, TinEye!). I first found it on the Grand Canyon West website.

Pongo faces

Last year I had occasion to look more closely than I ever had before, at orangutans (Why? Long story). I’m not generally much focused on ape species–there’s a touch of the uncanny valley in my initial response. I’m more of a “dog person,” in general. But on closer examination I found fascinating beauty and diversity.

Baby and mother, of the newly-identified species, Pongo tapanuliensis.

More recently, I read about the discovery of an entirely new orangutan species, Pongo tapanuliensisIt was announced in the online journal Current Biology last November. If you want a more in-depth dive into how they decided it’s a separate species, here’s a video abstract that lays it out well.

Pongo tapanuliensis looks to a clouded future–it is one of the most endangered ape species in the world. We’ve only just realized we have it–and we’re already about to lose it.

But reading about Pongo tapanuliensis reminded me of my earlier research. I hope you’ll enjoy this little gallery of Pongo faces, in all their marvelous variations.

With only about 800 individuals known to exist, this Pongo tapanuliensis baby has an unfortunately fraught future.

Pongo tapanuliensis may be new to us, but the other two species also deserve our regard and protection. All are endangered. All are amazing creatures.

A Sumatran Pongo abelii mother and baby find something of interest to look at, over there.
This Pongo abelii male looks to me as if he’s about to say something profound. If only he could talk!
Another P. abelii male, but clearly not the same guy as the one pictured just above. I wonder what he’s thinking about (probably wondering, “Who is this crazy human, and what is that contraption he’s waving at me?”).
A Bornean male, of the species Pongo pygmaeus, seems to have a lot on his mind.
Noisy zoo visitors prompted this reaction from a Pongo pygmaeus in an Indonesian zoo. Haven’t we all felt this way at times?
Meet Mari, a Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean orangutan), with her baby. They live in a zoo in Singapore.

If you still haven’t had enough wonderful orangutan faces, there’s a nice collection of them on this video from The Orangutan Project, based in Australia (be aware: there’s a fundraising plug at the end).

I wasn’t able to find The Orangutan Project among Charity Navigator’s listings, but another orangutan-devoted organization rated very high on their evaluation scale for financial integrity, accountability and transparency. It’s Orangutan Foundation International, based in Los Angeles, CA. If you’re inclined to donate, here’s your chance.

IMAGES: Many thanks for all the wonderful Pongo faces, to: Zee News, Stuff, and The Atlanticfor first glimpses of P. tapanuliensis; to photographer Thomas Marent on Fine Art America, for the Sumatran P. abelii mother and baby; to iNaturalist and Roni Bintang’s Flickr Photostream for the male P. abelii faces; and to Jason Hon of WCS and World View, for the askance-looking male P. pygmaeus, to Robertus Pudyanto, photographer, via Metro (UK), for the P. pygmaeus reacting to noisy zoo visitors, and to photographer Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty and Slate (nice article on animal personalities), for the photo of Mari and her baby. Thanks also to The Orangutan Project (AU)  via YouTube, for the video. 

Understanding is key

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

Understanding is the first step to trust. Trust is how we create bonds of peace that will not break. Trust, not bluster, not force of arms, not putting the other down or destroying them. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go, for that level of enlightenment.

IMAGE: Many thanks to BrainyQuote for this image and quote from Albert Einstein.

Maintaining, extending

The Artdog Quote of the Week:

We sure could use more leaders with  skills and the mindset to handle conflicts by peaceful means, right now. It’s our key to survival, I think–and I worry, as a result.

IMAGE: Many thanks to BrainyQuote, for this image and quote from Ronald Reagan.