Un-Naming Okanagan Lake

If I look west down the arm of the fjord lake (Okanagan) from the beach down below my house, I see this kind of thing on some evenings …

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… and this kind of thing on others.

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One is called a mountain. One is called a cloud. They sure look like they’re responding to the same energy. This snow cloud, too.

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This lake, in this fjord, in this deep fault, stretching down almost 1500 metres, has power.

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And moods.p1440021

It’s in the same class of creature as glaciers and oceans.

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Let’s stop calling her water.

 

Humans and Geese and Weather and Geese and Humans and Geese

Canada geese always push their ability to withstand weather by coming back from migration wayyy too early in the spring and then toughing it out. That come-too-early thing is what Canada geese are all about. For the past twenty years or so, a goodly flock of them just haven’t bothered to leave. Local governments pay people to go around and shake their eggs in their nests, so their numbers don’t increase — this is considered a humane way of keeping beaches, so important for tourist dollars, free of goose poop. Here they are, childless, on the ice at Minus 20.
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The sun is going down. Night is coming on. But don’t you worry about them. Other humans come by in their cars, dozens every day, and feed them, which is all strictly forbidden. These humans consider this feeding of hungry animals to be humane. Pushing the weather, or humans, that’s who geese are. I love the way they encourage people to come outside for even five minutes in the cold and be the weather. Honk.

 

 

The Grasslands and Free Will

I saw something beautiful today. Want to see? Just follow my footsteps. Trudge trudge trudge. Here we go…

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Before the snow comes, the grass is dense. It sways in the wind. Just watch what happens.

It snows.

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Mule deer…
p1450573… make tracks in the snow. On a golf course, where there is nothing to guide them, they follow each other, in single file.

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On the grass itself, they let the grass show them the path.

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Then the wind comes.

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Then the wind keeps coming.

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There’s a lot of wind here. There’s nothing above us except the universe. It makes the wind. Nice.

That wind keeps coming.

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Well, the same happens to the grass.

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The bunchgrass.p1460278

It directs the wind, too, just like the mule deer. I promise, if you’re going to go walking now, you’re going to walk where there is the most wind, which is between the snow. Free will here means you have the free will to choose what has already been chosen for you, to flow.

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Spring’s growth is determined now, in this world of footsteps: footsteps of deer, and footsteps of the wind, and yours, if you like.

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The grass sculpts them all.

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And the wind sculpts the grass.

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This is the path.

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Filthy Air in the Okanagan

The difference in colour between the air in the foreground and the background of this image looking from Bella Vista (surely a misnomer) to Okanagan Landing and the Commonage in Vernon yesterday is a measure of how much filth we have put into only five kilometres of air.p1450985

Every cubic metre of that air holds extra heat from the sun. The colour shows that. It is as much a part of global warming as the weedy trees that have crept down the grassland hill, whose dark colour holds the sun’s heat in winter, melting snow that should be melting into the grass later, and then ejecting it into the atmosphere as water in the summer heat, where it is blown away to the east, and gone. The grass wouldn’t have done that, but in our ignorance of grass we did. Forget global C02 measures. We just need to step outside and look at the water. This is what “development” as an economic strategy leads to: dirt. Wear a mask. Because, when you get up to 650 metres on the hill, you can smell this stuff. Here’s what 15 kilometres of it looks like.

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Let’s stop selling the Okanagan as a place with a clean environment. It just makes things worse.

Gravity Engines in the Okanagan

I left you with this image yesterday and said that all the balance and water we would ever need was here.p1440741

Now that you’ve had some time to live with the image, let’s talk. To locate it, this is an image of the west arm of Okanagan Lake at Minus 19 Celsius. It is in the process of freezing. This lake:

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There is clear sky, fog over open water, and (in close) ice. The ice is covered with white spots. They are not snow. They are tiny fluffs of hoarfrost that has frozen on surface of the lake:

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What you cannot see in the image is the water evaporating into the cold air — at minus 19. It drifts for a bit less than a metre then vanishes. Along the way, it builds frost.

p1440726 The specific texture of the ice surface doesn’t seem to matter.p1440717

Perhaps, though, specific atmospheric conditions do matter; some of the ice, which should be evenly covered with frost feathers isn’t: seemingly a goose broke it …

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…at a critical point and the newly open water caught the hoarfrost upon freezing, while the older ice didn’t, or at least not so much.

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All in all, what we’re really looking at is a relationship between the lake and the sky.

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And the sun.p1440526

And the wind.
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With the geese …

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…as tricksters in the process.p1440584

Poor things. I told them that migration might have been a good option. They barely had the energy to hiss. Still, a few things are easy enough to observe. First, hoarfrost is heating in the sun and evaporating into the air, despite the cold (and the geese.)

p1440389 Second, it is drifting on a breeze and condensing again.  These two effects don’t have to happen at the same time. p1440360

It’s likely that the clear, dry, high pressure sky is absorbing the evaporated frost, which was likely laid down when fog moved in off the open part of the lake at night.p1440377

Third, this frost holds the directionality of the wind, and forms in incredibly thin structures. Likely, this shape that allows them to melt despite the cold, and evaporate into the dry air.p1440418

To rephrase all that: darkness and cold bring the heat of summer across the ice, where the heat drops away to leave water behind; together the sun and the night move water across the ice and deposit it (store it), for later release. All of this couldn’t happen without a sky that has been stripped of water by its journey over the mountains to the west, and which creates a pressure vacuum, a kind of wing, that accelerates the evaporation process. After all, if the sky were heavy with humidity, it would simply snow. Now, let’s place this activity into context. There is frost moving across the lake, storing energy and releasing it across time…

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… and there are leaves, trading electrons across a membrane to create sugar …

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and there are lungs that trade gasses from air to blood by pressure differences, photovoltaic cells that trade electrons across a threshold and there are nuclear reactors that knock atoms apart so they can reassemble, in a process controlled by temperature and pressure. There is, in other words, the shifting of material across space and time by utilizing energy shifts across thresholds of form. The processes can be complex, but they’re also elegantly simple. The surface of the lake, for instance…

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… which is made out of the intermolecular and surface tension of innumerable molecules of water (in other words out of an atomic charge)…

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…is a plane of energy on a particular wavelength between water and air, which invites frost to form little differently than the way in which a leaf manipulates carbon dioxide and water atoms to transfer electrons across a membrane by inviting molecules to sit in just the right position that further atoms slide into the correct places for building sugar, and no other. It is a passive process, but a powerful one.

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There is nothing in the process that could not be managed to create, store and move energy in a landscape, and nothing in it that could not be used to create technologies that would do the same in built environments. This is an atomic reactor at work:

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That it is not seen as one is probably because scientific traditions are built around measurement by devices, with the goal of building further independent devices, on the model of the independent human observers who implement them. They could, however, be built instead around environments, with the goal of building further environments, on the model of the biological observers who implement them.

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Using our valley to manipulate heat and cold, pressure and water through the cooling and evaporative process available to us, driven by the energy wing of the mountains, would lead to a situation in which this slope of the lake  …

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… is, like the lake, the reactor. It wouldn’t look like this, of course, all weed-choke, because it would be managed for energy effects. In this context, the sage brush below …

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… is frost which has condensed as a reaction to a pressure environment …

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and this bunch grass…

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… is a complex device that uses a column of evaporated water to hold water against both the gravity within the soil and the pressure effect (also a gravity effect) in the air. In other words, this particular atomic reactor is a gravity reactor. If we use it wisely, there will be water for all.

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If we don’t, the water will blow away in the wind.

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An Okanagan university would be working on these processes day and night.

Art and Ethics on the Okanagan’s Ancient Water

The sun rises.p1430784

It draws the night fog off of Okanagan Lake. It’s early and 18 Below Zero. The gulls sleep on.p1430791

The gulls that seem to have erupted from the lake. The lake that is feathered with frost.

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The frost that is like eiderdown. Such mysteries here. p1440285

Such beauty.p1440345

The lake turned into art by geese.

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Geese with cold feet.p1430923 That warm the lake in goose-shaped blotches to get those feet warm.
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Artist geese.p1430934

What a show! p1440028

What a beautiful earth, all linked together like frost.

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Under the open stars.

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And the Milky Way.

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With a view right to the Big Bang.

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Ah, but what’s this?

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Oh, bugger it, that’s not fog. That’s smog spewing north from Kelowna, a collection of wineries, wine bars and chain stores skirting a thirty-kilometre-long strip mall of car dealerships and bars twenty kilometres down the lake.

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This is our shame. Look hard. This is what a failure of ethics looks like.

How the British Columbia Government Looks After the Land and the Water

It doesn’t. If I look from my house towards the western shore of Okanagan Lake, I see this.p1430520

The land has been burnt, slashed by logging roads, scarred by development and turned into an ugly sore that will take a few centuries to recover. A government would work to heal the land. The legislature that we have administers public land, on the principle of making it available for industrial uses, as long as it doesn’t interfere with certain, assigned protected values, including special reserves for rare plants or animals on the model of the Indian Reserves of 1871. The principle is set out in the provincial land use plan, as follows:
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At no time is the use of land governed or planned, other than in this process of setting aside reserves; at all times, the government promises that reserves will accommodate all possible uses at the same time, unless one so contravenes the requirements of a specific, limited protected area that it can’t be allowed. Walls are like that: Indian reserves placed all people outside of common community and gave privileges to a certain class of land owner and degrading poverty to another; environmental reserves allow a certain class of land user to maintain privileges while placing common people and their land outside of community. It would be better if we all decided to live here and started looking after the place. Whatever problems we have with each other that have led to these convoluted hierarchies of selling our land without governance …

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… we should settle between each other. The land can’t afford to pay the price for this ideology any longer. Nor can we.

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Bunch Grass: the Beavers of the Grasslands

Look at the wonder that is bunchgrass. In this country in which snow falls and soon evaporates into the air, the amount of water a plant can keep from either flowing away in the sun or evaporating in the dry air is crucial. The bunchgrass in the image below, taken today on Turtle Mountain, is preventing both evaporation and flow. Effectively, on a forty-degree slope it is holding water in place and changing the seasons. Have a look. This is technology that we can develop further and put to extensive use.p1430045

See that? The grass has two aspects: uphill stalks that climb up to the sun, and downhill ones that follow gravity to the earth. The sun that catches in the grass lying on the snow…p1430079

… melts the snow to water …

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… ever further and further back. It soaks through the snow on the downhill side of the grass …

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… ready to be captured there by the extensive root system of the plant and delivered back, uphill, to its core under the lifting power of the sun.

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Effectively, each bunchgrass pumps water up hill to a distance of the length of its stalks, in a process that uses cool weather melting to store water and the drying effects of the sun to keep water from following gravity to the valley floor. Water only flows downhill here in any volume when the grass is broken. It’s no different with beavers.