The Long View

I was out on my first run of 2019. It was the second day of the year, not the first. The first was foggy, grey, dim and dark. No views to be had, no motivation to get out and find some. Day 2 was a different story.

The same mountains that were there behind the fog and drizzle of New Years Day suddenly revealed themselves. Of course they’d been there all along. I always know they are there, right there in front of me, but there are times I just can’t use that knowledge to envision them on the far side of Lake Geneva.

It takes discipline and determination to see the positives when it comes to climate and the environment. But they are there. It may sound strange, but the mountains ahead need us to see them as much as we need to see them. When it comes to taking action, having a picture of the mountain on the other side of the clouds might be the only way to see it. At least for now.

I didn’t make any resolutions for 2019, but I am going to make a serious effort, both here on ChampagneWhisky and elsewhere, to always see the best views – regardless of the low-hanging clouds that might be blocking my line of sight.

Mont Blanc, France. Photo: PKR

 

Leaping Forward

The diminutive planthopper (Issus coleoptratus)┬áis the only creature we know of besides ourselves that uses intermeshed gears for heavy, synchronized lifting. The gears, which look like a comic book model of miniature technology, form the ratchet joint between the planthopper’s back legs.

Gear-like joint of the planthopper (Issus coleoptratus) Photo: Matthew Burrows/National Geographic

Gear-like joint of the planthopper (Issus coleoptratus)
Photo: Matthew Burrows/National Geographic

They create a smooth response where the insect’s developing system is still incapable of carrying through the complex coordination required when the hopper wants to make one of its signature great leaps from one point to another. The tiny planthopper can jump a meter (3 feet) in a single bound.

The gears are only present while the animal is immature, for while the planthopper’s body is learning to leap forward, it puts such a strain on the joint that the tiny gear teeth tend to break off completely. No worry, the insect is still growing, and with each new molt it emerges with shiny, intact gears, regenerated for further leaps.

Once adult, the hopper develops a system altogether more mature and reliable, without all the breakables.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a final report this week stating that if humans can’t manage to collectively confront the issue of climate change immediately and on a massive scale, we may find ourselves in need of an as-yet-to-be-invented sucking technology to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and put them – where? Underground where we got them? Into outer space?

Abandoned coal mine gear. Photo: Sascha Burkard/123rf

Abandoned coal mine gear.
Photo: Sascha Burkard/123rf

Meanwhile, technologies for better ways to frack natural gas, extract oil from shale, dig deeper to find hidden oil reserves are developing apace.

We’re still in a developmental phases of our progress, still breaking the gear teeth when we want to make great leaps from one point to another.

Maybe the next sloughing phase will see us shed this immature skin, refine and improve our gears and coordination, and take a longer leap forward to where we put our collective minds towards solutions that won’t leave us without a safe place to land.

Planthopper (Issus coleoptratus) Photo: Matthew Burrows/National Geographic

Planthopper (Issus coleoptratus)
Photo: Matthew Burrows/National Geographic