Randy Udall, energy poet

They found Randy Udall yesterday — he had been hiking alone on a remote trail up in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, a place he knew well. Poles were still in hand, the Denver Post reports.

“Randy left this Earth doing what he loved most: hiking in his most favorite mountain range in the world,” the Udall family said in a statement.

Randy Udall

The initial AP stories on the search kept describing him as the “brother of U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.” This was necessary to distinguish the man from Mark and also cousin Tom Udall, one of Mexico’s U.S. Senators, probably — and also maybe from his dad Mo Udall, his uncle Stewart Udall, his brother Brad Udall…  there are many, accomplished Udalls to keep straight. This is an exceptional family.

I met Randy in 2006, when he spoke to a group of journalists on a one-week jaunt around the mountain states during an Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources fellowship called the Energy Country Institute. Maybe 30 of us were gathered in a back room in a restaurant in Meeker. He had a PowerPoint presentation, but with few words. Just big, evocative pictures and a couple of graphs about fossil energy in the West. He called us the Oil Tribe, the strangest of all tribes. I have the presentation on my hard drive, though I’m not sure how it got there. Eighty megabytes. Nearly meaningless.

It’s nearly meaningless because Randy isn’t delivering it. Not just the content, but the man himself commanded attention. Big, lanky and wiry with a shock of hair just long enough to be unkempt, he spoke as if telling ghost stories around a bonfire. I sat next to him during dinner. He seemed worn down by the fight. He was worried that we’d burned to much already, and that we were going to be burning much more. That was seven years ago, before fracking had exploded.

I interviewed him a few times while I was working at the Daily Camera and on and off after that. Saw him present at an ASPO-USA conference in Denver. Mostly I read his stuff on oil shale, on fracking. He was known as an energy advocate. But he was really a poet — the West’s great energy poet, the best communicator on the issue there ever was.

Global warming, empty bellies

A few months ago, Micah Williams, TEDxMileHigh’s newest (and only full-time) employee, asked if I might write a blog post about climate change. I said “sure,” and then I thought about what I could say about climate change that wasn’t being said.

Full Planet, Empty PlatesI used to cover the topic at the Daily Camera, and still follow it pretty closely (subscribing to The Daily Climate and Climate Progress daily emails, both great resources). But I came up blank for a couple of months. Then the Earth Policy Institute sent the Society of Environmental Journalists’ list an offer of a review copy of Lester Brown and company’s new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. I had interviewed Brown back when I was at the Camera and have paid close attention to his books ever since. We all should.

I bit, they sent, I read, and then, as tends to happen, complementary ideas suddenly came to my attention, in particular in the form of a World Bank report and a Jeremy Grantham essay. I sent Micah a note and said I had an idea: that the great threat of global warming  may well be its impact on food supplies.

The result isn’t poetry — more the product of a couple of hours of frenetic pro-bono synthesis and a modicum of editing (on my part; I think Micah did more). But it had simmered a good long while.

Unintended (or intended) climate-change irony from the SEJ

From the unintended (or probably intended, given the source) irony department: the first three news items from the Society of Environmental Journalists’ e-mail summary this a.m. For those living in caves and U.S. Senators from Oklahoma: heat waves such as the one stoking the wildfires in Colorado and intense storms like those we’re seeing in Florida and Duluth, Minn. are among the many symptoms climate models predict for a warming planet.


“Global leaders ended a U.N. development summit on Friday with what was widely considered a lackluster agreement, leaving many attendees convinced that individuals and companies, rather than governments, must lead efforts to improve the environment.” Paulo Prada and Valerie Volcovici report for Reuters June 25, 2012.



“Factbox: Main Points In Rio+20 Agreement” (Reuters)


“Rio+20: Agreement Reached, Now the Work Begins” (ENS)


“Rio+20 Earth Summit: Campaigners Decry Final Document” (Guardian)




“COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The total number of homes destroyed by a two-week old wildfire in northern Colorado was raised to 248 on Sunday as residents of a subdivision near Fort Collins learned that 57 more homes in their neighborhood had been lost, authorities said. … With a total of eight fires burning, Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.” The Associated Press had the story June 24, 2012.



“Eight Wildfires Roaring Across Colorado” (Denver Post)


“Fires Spread in Colorado, Utah” (Los Angeles Times)




“MIAMI — Tropical Storm Debby whipped Florida with bands of drenching rain Monday while its center was nearly stationary in the Gulf of Mexico. Its slow progress meant the most pressing threat from the storm was flooding, not wind.” MSNBC had the story June 25, 2012.



“Tropical Storm Debby Trains Sights On Florida, Alabama” (AP)



You think it’s hot out there now…

Washington D.C. hit 99 degrees Fahrenheit today; we in Denver have been in that neighborhood a few days already this June, and are headed back this weekend. The average June high is here supposed to be 83. We’ve had roughly zero precip; the potted plants wilt within a hours of a soaking.

So let’s say we’re 10 degrees hotter than normal, to be charitable. That’s 5.5  degrees Celsius, which is not far off from 4 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees, roughly), about which David Roberts, the ueberprolific Grist blogger and Twitterhound, devoted a bit of his recent TEDx talk. He posted annotated slides here, from which I post the following:

From David Roberts/Grist.org. You'll be dead in 2100, but your kids' kids won't be.

I don’t know about you, but when it gets over about 90 degrees, the flight instinct kicks in. Roberts is only the messenger, here. This isn’t alarmism, but rather a function of very well-understood physics–and probably conservative, given that we don’t know what kinds of amplifying feedback (mass release of carbon/methane from melting permafrost, say) will kick in, and we’re trending toward ever-higher greenhouse-gas emissions. It’s very difficult to imagine dampening feedback, at least when you’re not talking geologic time. This isn’t an election issue, for some reason, but it isn’t going away, either.