This gorgeous scene is along a streamside on one of my favorite hikes in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. It showcases the wide variety of plants and includes eight flower species as well as spruce, juniper, moss, and some grasses and sedges. Scenery like this has drawn me to the mountains to hike and camp throughout my life. While among the meadows I am the happiest and most carefree and feel closest to my true spirit, unfettered by the responsibilities and pressures of what we call the civilized world.
This large-format photograph has enough detail to transport you to the meadow and drink in every subtlety. There are delicate textures in the leaves, bright and cheery flowers to study at all angles, and even a few small bugs to marvel at. When I travel to the mountains and search for a place like this, the experience of finding it and setting up the camera has a unique and enduring meaning. These events are rare, and sometimes more than a year passes by before I find a spot that stirs an emotional connection. That feeling persists and deepens while placing and focusing the view camera, which can take a half hour. When the image is projected on the ground glass and viewed under the dark cloth and is finally ready, it seems that I have opened a window into the soul of the natural world. At that moment, I am humbled by nature's grandeur and how I am such a small and insignificant visitor, so lacking in understanding of what surrounds me.
This is an excellent example of the diversity of subalpine meadows. In the photograph are the wildflowers Lupinus latifolius (Broadleaf lupine), Senecio triangularis (Bog groundsel), Mimulus tilingii (Tiling's yellow monkeyflower), Mimulus lewisii (Lewis' pink monkeyflower), Castilleja miniata (Indian paintbrush), Phyllodoce empetriformis (Pink mountain-heather), Luetkea pectinata (Partridgefoot), and Epilobium glaberrimum (Glaucous willowherb). Other plants in the scene are spruce, juniper, willow, and moss.
These days, I have great concern for the health of the meadows. The stream where this photo was taken comes from glaciers that are rapidly disappearing, most likely because of human-induced climate change. A short distance from here is a snowfield that I have crossed every year for twenty years on my hikes. In the summer of 2005, the snowfield disappeared for the first time in my memory. If the trend continues, the source of water for the flowers above will also dry up, and the meadow will die.
What can we do to stop the destruction? There are many choices we can make that do not depend on governmental action. Driving a more efficient car, such as a hybrid, helps. Be careful about making wasteful car trips and try to combine them, and travel when traffic is light to minimize stop-and-go travel. Consider renewable energy sources for your electric power, and conserve electricity whenever possible. Volunteer and give money to organizations that plant trees to help absorb carbon from the air. Support efforts to use and market renewable fuels, and take public transportation. Instead of driving, shop online and have goods delivered to you, or have them shipped to the recipient. Most importantly, get in contact with your government representatives and urge them to make policy changes that increase gas mileage requirements. Car manufacturers already make efficient engines for other countries where gasoline is expensive. Contrary to what they say, it is not costly for them to offer the same options here in the United States. Write letters to car manufacturers and tell them you won't buy their products unless they are made to be efficient and use renewable fuels. We must also develop dialogues with countries that are rapidly growing such as India and China, as the energy use in these nations in coming years will add greatly to our own impact on global climate. These are just a few of the things you can do; there are many others.
We have to start thinking about our impact on global warming and take action now. While some people claim it may be too late to stop some of the effects, it is never too late to reduce carbon emissions. Every step we take will have a positive effect, and the alternative is the destruction of our planet's climate. We cannot afford the latter.