Or sortof about climate change.
The piece had an odd wrapper, was bookended by a different story, and seemed to me to have the wrong shape, conforming to the wrong genre, as it were. Or at least a slightly awkward shape.
It was a ways into the piece before you reached the nut of the matter:
In a nutshell, the warming climate is allowing the forest to move higher on the mountain.The start of the article, though, was a narrative about seeking and it zoomed in on one person's subjective experience:
“There are two things happening right now — at Jefferson Park and throughout the Cascades — both caused by global warming,” Sullivan said. “The first is the melting glaciers, which sends down floods and (debris flows). The second is that warming allows trees to be able to grow at higher elevations.”
They arrive from every corner of Oregon — and even from across the country — on a remote gravel road just outside the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.The piece started out as a story about longing for Beauty.
Thirty cars line the small parking area at Whitewater Trailhead 68 miles east of Salem, their owners stepping into the bright sunlight on a recent Saturday wearing hiking boots and carrying backpacks for a journey into one of the Cascade Mountains’ most beloved hideaways.
“I’ve wanted to do this hike for a long time,” says Caitlin White, who made the trip all the way from Beaufort, N.C., after scouting the hike online. “The pictures looked just amazing.”
And it ended as a tribute to fading Beauty - but not Beauty harmed or hurt. The fading was just a semi-natural aging or development, hastened or modified by climate change, but not essentially a human-caused rupture.
In a story a little ironically published on World Car Free Day, it used a kind of harmonizing narrative closure better suited to Romance - think Winter's Tale or Cymbeline - than the dual Tragedies of climate change and of the commons!
Maybe because of "climate change fatigue," it seemed useful to soft-pedal the tragic dimension.
So the question becomes, what will Jefferson Park look like in the future, and is there anything people can do?But is this tone of resignation right? Isn't there anything people can do?
Brad Peterson, wilderness manager for the Detroit Ranger Station in Willamette National Forest, said cutting down the trees wouldn’t be a likely solution.
“Trying to revert the ecosystem to achieve a state that existed in the past isn’t a place that we would go,” Peterson said. “In wilderness, we’re not supposed to try and control natural environmental processes.”
Even so, it’s not a totally bleak situation...
“But there are still going to be specific locations where the snow can pile up, in shady depressions where topography will allow snowpack to persist and the meadows to persist.”
In other words, 50 years down the line, people stepping into the Saturday sunlight at Whitewater Trailhead still will be able hike five miles down the trail to Jefferson Park.
The trees might be denser, the patches of wildflower-dappled meadows less plentiful, but Jefferson Park will endure.
Sure there is! Stop driving, reduce carbon emissions, support aggressive governmental action on climate change. (etc, etc)
While it's true that there is no one-to-one correspondence between things done super-locally here in Salem and slowing the global effects of climate change in our alpine meadows, and possibly true that we have passed some preliminary points of no-return, still the poignance of the trope of "fading beauty" might suggest too much of a passivity that may not be so benign after all.
At the same time, with the tragic mode, advocates or essayists too often become hectoring, even shrieking and apocalyptic, and it is perhaps a matter of rhetorical effectiveness to adopt a softer tone of voice.
I don't know what the right balance is, and I'm certain these things are not obvious, but it seemed to me this erred a little on the Pollyanna-ish side. How did you read it?