Posts filed under Science

Where Chambers Street ends and Rockefeller Park Starts

Big City Life

Rockefeller Park and Bronze Statues

    Today we have been promised really hot temperatures, and they have issued a heat advisory, with temperatures up to 95, and the real fell up above 100. Im pretty sure we had days like this in Madison too, but maybe not as frequent. In Fairbanks and Alaska on the other hand, these things never happened. Instead we could hear about the air quality advisories on the radio while sipping coffee in the morning. Smoke from all wildfires which created this grey to yellow smoke that hovered over Fairbanks, sometimes for weeks, or air quality advisories in the wintertime because of pollutions that stayed atop the city for months. Now that I have lived here for a couple of weeks I am used to this heat and the heat advisories, or rather I know when to venture out and what to expect versus times when it's probably best to stay at home. One thing about New York that always surprise me when I do venture out are all these small parks spread across the city, and all the trees and bushes you can see where you least expect it.  The other day I took the train south, to Brooklyn Bridge. I got off, and followed Chambers Street towards the water on the west side of Manhattan. Once there I stumbled upon Rockefeller Park, that joins up with Hudson River Park if you continue north along the water. The first thing I noticed was this large bronze statue to the left of the stairs leading down into the park. As I continued towards it, I suddenly saw all of these other bronze statues scattered across the area. Statues of creatures, people, bankers and robbers, laborers and pilgrims, predators and prey. If you ever find yourself in New York City, I would definitely recommend this park, to find some shadow and to relax and enjoy all these sculptures. New York is such a large city with so many tourists, but you can still come across areas like Rockefeller Park that is close to empty. I guess I can compare it to when people visit National Parks. Most people stay on the road, in the car, and hardly anyone actually get off the road, and if they do few people hike more than 1 mile from the road system, or the most popular places. If it is off the beaten path, fewer people go there. 

Urban Parks and Urban Heat Islands

    Did you know that woodlands are cooler than urban areas? And that city parks can be as much as 5 F cooler than surrounding areas during the day, and even cooler during the evening and night time? The concept of buildings being hotter than say parks is often referred to as the Urban Heat Island. Dark non-reflective buildings absorb heat, and will re-release the heat throughout the day, making the surrounding area warmer. Vegetation cool the surrounding area through the evapotranspiration process, and hence a park with moist soil and a lot of vegetation will have a cooling effect. Of course the urban heat island concept is more complex than comparing dark and non-reflective buildings to vegetation, but overall the outcome is cooler parks, compared to surrounding buildings, as you can see in the temperature and vegetation map of New York below, from NASA. So, think about the cooling effect next time you walk in a large city and encounter a park.

Views along Chambers Street, Rockefeller Park, and Hudson River Park:

    Do you have a favorite park in the (any) city you always visit?

Matanuska Valley and Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Flashback Friday

Palmer, Alaska

    If you drive south from Fairbanks, past Talkeetna, and past Wasilla you get to a place called Palmer. We went there the first time my mom and dad came to visit us in Alaska. It was late August, or maybe even September when we went for this long roadtrip. W and I had bought tickets to see Avett Brothers at the annual Alaska State Fair that late summer. My parents stayed at a motel across from the fairground, and they could hear the music play in the late summer evening. Those summer nights were colorful and warm, mosquitos were out but not a real problem. No smoke in the air for once, and everyone were in such a happy mood. Afterwards W and I drove towards a camping spot outside of Palmer and camped for the evening. 

Views from the drive south:

Palmer, Alaska:


    You could think that there really isn't that much to do in Palmer, but there are quite a few things to do around there. Since we are all interested in culture, and my mom used to work at a large open air museum in Sweden (Skansen), we went to the Colony House Museum. The house is showing its appearance during the 30's and 40's. It is always interesting to see how people lived, especially in a landscape as Alaska, with the long dark and cold winter months, and short summers. The Colony House came to life during the depression and the big investment in New Deal by Roosevelt in the 30's. I have mentioned "Civilian Conservation Corps" (CCC) earlier, which also was a part of Roosevelt's New Deal. The "Resettlement Administration" (RA) was part of Roosevelt's New Deal, and about 200 families were relocated from the Midwest to the Matanuska Valley. The reason they chose families from the Midwest to be relocated to Alaska, was because that area experience a similar climate to the Matanuska Valley. Not too surprisingly, many of the families that were relocated had Scandinavian ancestry.

Musk Ox Farm

    While you are around Palmer you can also visit the Musk Ox Farm. There they use sustainable agricultural practices to produce qiviut. They focus on public education and also provide some income opportunities for Alaska Natives. Muskox can be seen roaming free along some coastal areas in Alaska. There is also a small herd of Muskox that roam along the border of Sweden and Norway (if that wild herd still exist, I can't find any updated information about them), but then there is also the Muskox centre in Härjedalen where they breed Muskox, with one of the main purposes to increase the genetic variation in the wild herd. That wild herd on the border between Sweden and Norway started of with a population of about 5 individuals 1971, At most the herd had about 30 individuals, in the 80's, but since then that number has decreased to about 11, so they have suffered some inbreeding problem unfortunately, something that is common in small populations of animals. 

Mat-Su Valley

    Palmer and the Musk Ox farm are situated in the Matanuska Valley, just south of the Talkeetna Mountains. To the east and south of Palmer you have the Chugach Mountains. As you can imagine this area is extremely beautiful with these large mountains surrounding the area. To the left of the Matanuska Valley is the Susitna valley, and the whole area is often called the Mat-Su Valley. The whole area in southern Alaska is covered by glaciers, it is quite spectacular to think about, since these glaciers most likely will disappear in the near future, and many of them have retreated significantly or just disappeared. If you are interested in seeing how many glaciers there are in Alaska you can see a map from Alaska State Library, which list 667 individual glaciers in Alaska. The Mat-Su Valley, although dark winter nights, is the most productive area in Alaska, and the area experiences less cold weather compared to for instance Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley. This area is part of the Southern Cordillera region and was glaciated during the Pleistocene (compared to the area around Fairbanks and Interior Alaska, which mostly was unglaciated), and is the reason why there are so many glaciers in southern part of Alaska. 

Matanuska Glacier

    Out of all of these 667 glaciers in Alaska, Matanuska glacier is one of the few glaciers you can actually drive all the way to the foot of the glacier. The access point is privately owned and charges a small amount of money to be able to drive all the way to the glacier. Well it seems like this small amount that used to be 25-30$ per person has gotten a pretty steep increase in the last few years. Apparently you now have to pay 100$ fee, for a guided tour. Which is in some way understandable. This is a glacier and while many of the visitors are following the guidelines and are sticking to the detailed path to walk on, others are running around the glacier like small kids, jumping crevasses and climbing ice towers with sandals. 

 Standing on the Matanuska Glacier

Standing on the Matanuska Glacier

Glenn Highway

    Of course you can see the views of the glacier by driving the scenic Glenn Highway, and visit the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation site. I have visited the Matanuska glacier twice, but we never went on any extreme outings out there on the ice. But the views, and the feeling of being on the ice like that is out of this world. 

    Have you visited any glaciers?

The Death of one's Wilderness


It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extra ordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations. - Jimmy Carter

National Parks and Wildlife Refugees a story that is not always nice

    Back in the day, when the first National Park formed in 1872, Yellowstone National Park, it was not only to protect the wilderness, but to also create the human perception of a wilderness, an uninhabited wilderness, pushing the Native American's out of their wilderness.

“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” - The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act

    Ignoring the fact that in reality what was created, was a rather unnatural habitat with the subsequent fire suppression and the predator elimination. Also, ignoring the fact that this land was partially Native American land. This perception that no one should live inside these parks, including Native Americans was also shared by environmentalists and writers, such as John Muir. 

    The wilderness act that was stated in 1964 defines the wilderness as:

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." - 1964 Wilderness Act

“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Source: Birth of a National Park

"Secretary of the Interior Lucius Lamar felt the new national parks should be managed to preserve "wilderness," in his mind defined as uncut forests and plentiful game animals." Source: Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks

    In fact, the Native American have a lot to teach us about sustainability and living off the land, caring for the environment, because if we do not, we wont get that much in return. We can have wilderness out there, along with people who are sustainably caring for their land. It is when we start to get greedy that things start to take a turn towards the dark side.

    Nowadays the view of the Native American's use of the land is somewhat changed, and in 1996 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was put in place. 

“The National Park Service recognizes that site-specific worship is vital to Native American religious practices. As a matter of policy and in keeping with the spirit of the law, and provided the criteria listed in section 8.2 for use of the parks are not violated, the Service will be as unrestrictive as possible in permitting Native American tribes access to park areas to perform traditional religious, ceremonial, or other customary activities at places that have been used historically for such purposes." - NPS Management Policy

    Today we also have the Native American Policy which is suppose to improve the government-to-government relationships. 

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature

    In 1995 Professor William Cronon wrote an article that highlight this exact issue, the problem with wilderness as it is created by us humans due to our perception on how a wilderness in fact should, or should not be. Back in the day the wilderness was defined as desolate, barren or a wasteland, and it was concluded that wilderness is indeed based on your own consciousness. The reason why I am bringing this up is because it seems that some politicians are stuck in this perception of wilderness as a wasteland.

Once Alaska is in your blood you will never shake it

    As you all know Alaska has a special place in my heart, just like many other place do too. When I walk out into nature and see all these mountains, rivers, deep deep forests, sandstone formations, open vistas, tundra, glaciers and many many other views I feel it in my heart. Of course this does not only happen in Alaska. You know that feeling of such joy that you don't really know if you should laugh or cry. It's not only Alaska I love, I love the wilderness, with all these great open spaces that comes with it. I want to keep these wild places wild, and would rather not develop any of these place for oil or natural gas. Did you know that back in the day the government wanted to test a nuclear bomb up in Alaska, because there is nothing there to be destroyed? I let you think about that for a moment, but that is a whole different story than the story here today. 


"No other region of America has seen less human impact than the northeastern corner of Alaska"

The Sacred Place Where Life Begins

   There is a place far up north in Alaska, where caribou go to calve between May and July, some people call it the "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins", whereas others refer to it as the 1002 area. Regardless of what you call it, both areas are within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few things gets me as riled up as the increasing environmental issues this country are facing for each day that passes. The fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is nothing new, in fact it has been going on for decades. The Gwich'in people depend on these areas, largely because they depend on the caribou, and the caribou depend on the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain. This area has always been seen as a sacred place, for thousands of years. 

America's last truly Great Wilderness

    Many people are calling the ANWR America's last truly great wilderness. The Gwich'in calls it home. As I said, this battle has been going on for decades, more than 40 years, today is the closest we have been to develop parts of this refuge into an oil drilling environment. I can not understand how we as humans can become so greedy, so greedy of more and more and more, that we are willing to sacrifice our most beautiful parts of this world, the wilderness. But then again, the thought of beauty and wilderness can mean very different things depending on who you ask.

"man's endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and to destroy would inevitably evolve into a war against himself, a war he would lose unless he came to terms with nature." - Rachel Carson

Gwich'ins Battle

    I share, once again, the short but very important documentary about the Gwich'ins fight against the greedy politicians who want to squeeze every little bit of oil from these barren wastelands, as they refer it to. This is the Gwich'ins story:

 “A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be. And we're surrounded by the greatest of all wildernesses -- the universe.”  - Gary Snyder, NY times 1994

    What is your definition of the wilderness? Do you believe that a wilderness has to be free of any people or can you see a place as wild, even though people are actually living there?


Wild Places

Wednesday Thoughts

“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” - John F. Kennedy

Our Public Lands

    These last two months I have been traveling extensively through parts of the wilderness of this country. It is Amazing to see all these public lands, let it be a National Park, National reserve, National Forest or any other public land. How lucky we are that these places have been set aside, for us, for you, to enjoy. Unfortunately there are people on this planet who do not care about the wild places, greedy people who care more about money than our public lands. 

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder, is standing up for our public lands. Stand with him. Text DEFEND to 52886 by August 24.

Nature and Politics

    The video below always makes my eyes tear up, it hurts my heart to hear politicians talk about Alaska the way they do. I can only feel sorry for them, that they do not appreciate these wild places like you and I do!

For hundreds of generations, the Gwich'in people of Alaska and northern Canada have depended on the caribou that migrate through the Arctic Refuge. With their traditional culture now threatened by oil extraction and climate change, two Gwich'in women are continuing a decades-long fight to protect their land and future.

Wild Places

    This summer has made me crave more and more of the wilderness. Can you believe that I can crave more than what I have already craved. It's like a disease, it spreads and grows for each year. How do you feel about the wilderness?