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Earth Day 2021

Earth Day 2021

It’s About The World We Live In


April 22, 2021

Reflections on the 51st Anniversary of Earth Day
Earth Day

NOTE: For quite a few years I’ve written about Earth Day in April of each year. This article is similar to those of the past but I’ve republished it again those of you who may not have read it previously.



For me Earth Day has been a part of my vocabulary since 1970 when I was a student at the University of Michigan. I was majoring in resource economics so naturally studying all facets of the environment was a central part of my curriculum.

Here’s some background on the origins of its observance. Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson was a major force in organizing the first Earth Day. He wanted to focus our attention on the environment, to measure the effect that the world’s population was placing on our limited natural resources, and to implement the urgent actions to keep the earth sustainable for generations to come. Since then a generation or two has passed yet unfortunately Nelson’s urgency has not translated into the wide and responsive action that many of his disciples would have hoped.

So some 51 years later, Nelson’s intent is gaining some traction. In 2016, more than 190 member countries of the United Nations signed onto the Paris Agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Formally known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change these nations have pledged to combat climate change worldwide. In 2020, a major setback occurred when the U.S. withdrew from the agreement per President Trump who considered the terms of the agreement to be cost prohibitive and would lead to a major loss of jobs. However following the 2020 election with a new Biden administration in place, our country has now rejoined the agreement as of February of this year and the U.S. is again a participant in this global organization.


If you will, please take a short detour with me as my mind has become unstuck in time.

The phrase “unstuck in time” comes from the pen of the my favorite author, the late Kurt Vonnegut. I recall meeting him in the late 1960’s when he was invited to be “writer in residence” at the University of Michigan (U of M).

Vonnegut often frequented the “Brown Jug Restaurant” to have coffee and to smoke cigarettes. As an aside, he claimed that smoking was the slowest form of suicide. My wife Kris, a student at the time, waitressed here and would sometimes serve him. Due to her hearing difficulty she admitted that she wasn’t a very good waitress and frustrated Vonnegut with her (lack of) service. More to the point, his stay on campus as writer in residence ended prematurely when he abruptly left saying something like: “I’m leaving Ann Arbor since I have nothing more to teach you about writing.” So it goes.



Kurt Vonnegut photo courtesy of
Colleen Taber

the author and his dog living “60’s back to nature

Fifth Dimension


The 1960’s was a very vibrant and exciting, yet conflicted era. My high school yearbook quotes Charles Dickens: “it was the best of times and it was the worst of times….we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”. This was the period of the military draft and Viet Nam, living off the land and making peace, hippies and long hair. We were contemporaries of heavy metal, Motown, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, James Taylor and Woodstock music. With this as a backdrop, we happen upon the ENACT Teach-In at the U of M.

In the early 60s Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book describing the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Many have cited Silent Spring and the horrible 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara as two of the impetuses for the environmental movement. In 1970 on March 11, a dedicated environmentally conscience group organized the Environmental Action for Survival (ENACT) Teach-In at the U of M to discuss, to educate and to propose solutions and laws to stem environmental problems created by the earth’s inhabitants. Speakers included Senator Nelson, ecologist Barry Commoner, Michigan Governor William Milliken and U of M President Robin Flemming.

Hoping to fill the 13,000 seat Crisler Arena, the organizers also provided entertainment by the cast of Hair (a Broadway hit show) and folk song artist Gordon Lightfoot. Among the dozen songs Lightfoot performed was the Canadian Railroad Trilogy (click for lyrics). This lengthy song is a poetic ballad describing the building of the railroads across Canada and the difficult tradeoffs between developing a strong, vibrant economy for a growing population and keeping the land pristine for the future – an apt way to describe the environmental conflict in musical terms.

The ENACT Teach-In was a success and preceded Earth Day by six weeks. On April 22, 1970 more than 2000 colleges and 10,000 primary and secondary schools participated in the Earth Day Environmental teach-in, celebratory and activism activities throughout the US.

I was planning a career revolving around conservation, ecology and recycling. I studied writings from the likes of educators and humanists Kenneth Boulding, Buckminster Fuller and E.F. Schumacher and took courses such as forestry, resource management and cost-benefit analysis.

The next year I graduated with a degree in Natural Resource Economics. Regretfully my great enthusiasm for things environmental slowly tapered off. After a year hunting for a job in this nascent field I was still unemployed. Instead, I ended up in the computer and publishing business. So it goes.

How well or how poorly have us earthlings have done to improve the environment these past 51 years? Not that long ago I read an opinion piece that details how environmental issues have bounced around for 30 years between our Republican and Democratic leaders without very much accomplished. An older NY Times article by Nathaniel Rich aptly describes political obstacles standing in the way of Earth Day goals.

In spite of the absence of political agreement to attack the environmental issues, there have been deliberate and urgent activities to resurrect many of the same or similar ideas from these earlier decades that call for a change in our lifestyles.

There have been numerous events that have flashed attention on Earth Day. This song with a conservation theme: Conviction of the Heart (click for lyrics) was performed by writer/singer Kenny Loggins at Earth Day 1995 in Washington, DC.

A few years back we took our young grandkids to see The Lorax, a movie based on a Dr Seuss’ book. It describes a place where the trees have been clear cut so there are no trees left. Everyone depends on manufactured air to provide oxygen for their survival. Through battle with “industry”, the hero finally succeeds in planting a single tree. This act restarts the path to regenerating oxygen naturally. While the story is a little far fetched, it presents the oxygen depletion issue to a young generation.

We later took them to see another movie – The Croods which depicts the struggle of a family of cave people to survive in a deteriorating world. They survive through human ingenuity with inventions such as fire, shoes and wheels. I hope this isn’t the only lesson for our next generation – that technology alone is going to save our environment. Yes, we are quite ingenious. But a lot of us have reservations that technology by itself will solve our planet’s woes.

A look at 2020 statistics shows how alternative fuel activities have affected employment in the various energy sectors. The coal industry employees about 45,000 and the more inclusive fossil fuel industry – coal, oil and natural gas – employees 570,000. The number of employees working in wind power number about 110,000 and in solar power 250,000. Additionally about 250,000 are employed in the transportation industry to develop and produce alternative fuel vehicles – natural gas, hybrids, electric and fuel cell technology. It’s pretty clear that the energy industry is now heading towards more renewables.


Photography and the Environment

As many of you know, my interests are very much aligned with photography. So you might ask “what does all of this rambling have to do photography?” I thought it might be interesting to look at photography then and now to compare their individual environmental impacts.

At first, I thought this was going to be a “no brainer” – that digital photography yields huge environmental savings compared to conventional photography. But as I began to dig deeper, I see that there are two sides to this argument.

Conventional Photography

Having worked in several commercial photo labs long before the advent of digital, I’m familiar with the processes that are used in conventional (film-based) photography.

Most conventional cameras use a cartridge or canister of film for taking 12, 20 or 36 photographs. Each “roll” of film is individually packaged for sale in hundreds of thousands of retail locations. Besides the resources needed to manufacture the film, a considerable amount more are used to market and distribute the products.

Film derives its light sensitivity from a chemical mixture of silver halide that’s coated onto its surface. After being exposed to light by the camera, the film is first “developed” – the silver halide image is converted into a metallic silver and then “fixed” – the unused silver halide is dissolved. This makes the negative image permanent. Color film requires additional chemicals to form the dyes used to reproduce the various colors. And still other chemicals are used to enhance the drying of the photographic materials. In addition to these chemicals, a large amount of water is used to rinse and clean the chemicals from the surface of the film.

Conventional photographic prints are processed similarly using a silver halide sensitive paper and chemicals to develop and fix and wash the positive images. Most commercial photo labs make prints from each exposure on a roll of film.>

The environmental impact of conventional photography is significant. A large amount materials is consumed to make film and photographic paper. A large amount of nasty and toxic chemicals are used to process both the film and prints. And an awfully large amount of fresh water is used in the process as well.

Digital Photography

At first glance, the coming of age of digital photography appears to have a beneficial impact on the environmental.

With digital, no longer is there a need for roll after roll of film. Instead a single chip (SD-card or CF-card) can capture hundreds, maybe thousands of images.

Now, these digital images no longer require chemical development. Rather, the images are immediately available to review while still in the camera. For permanence, the images can be copied to your computer hard drive for safekeeping, further enhancement and presentation.

Unlike conventional processing where each exposure is mindlessly printed by the photo lab, you can be more selective. Instead you can choose to print only the best of the best images. And it’s your choice to print them using a conventional photo process at your favorite photo lab or print them at home on your color ink-jet printer.

Regardless of which camera you’ve purchased, digital photography seems like a winner from an environmental standpoint.

The Rest of the Story

As with many things in life, digital photography has a few “gotcha’s” that cloud its environmental friendly moniker.

The upside is that digital provides big savings in resources by eliminating film, packaging, paper and chemical processing. However, digital shifts the resource burden to the manufacturing and maintaining of the personal computer. Yes, there are some who make do without a personal computer. These picture takers bring their digital film to a photo lab to make their selected prints. But most picture takers collect, organize, retouch, process and present their photographs using a personal computer.

While it’s dated, a United Nation report tells us that “the average 24 kg desktop computer with monitor requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals to manufacture, much more materials intensive than an automobile or refrigerator, which only require 1-2 times their weight in fossil fuels. Researchers found that manufacturing one desktop computer and 17-inch CRT monitor uses at least 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 kg of water – a total of 1.8 tonnes of materials.”

Of course a personal computer is used for other tasks as well, so it’s not fair to put the full blame for digital photography’s negative impact on the environment.

And to power all of these cameras, computers and accessories the need for electricity either from the wall outlet or batteries is climbing. Does this contribute to our CO2 footprint?

Not surprisingly, manufacturers are working feverishly to add new and amazing whiz-bang features to their cameras. But now instead of buying a conventional camera every ten years or so, the buying cycle for digital cameras is a lot more frequent. Read: more resources consumed.

Wrapping it Up

We can credit the overwhelming adoption of digital cameras for saving the environment from millions of rolls of film and the required chemicals to develop the the film and prints. In addition to the great quality of digital technology, we benefit from a huge reduction of harmful photographic chemicals.

Unfortunately, from an environmental standpoint, digital photography is a mixed bag when considering the pervasive number of new cameras and extensive use of the personal computer.

In his novel Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut might comment on this no-win situation with the phrase so it goes.


I while back I wrote another article that might be of interest if you’re following the status of our environment.

After all of these years as an avid photographer I’m still a proponent of carefully using our precious natural resources. Aside from photographing family, my favorite pastime is nature and landscape photography. Below you can see some of the ways that I commune with nature.












These photos were taken in many of our National Parks, Monuments and parklands. As you read this, I’m off to other outdoor places to experience more of our earth.

To the best of my ability I continue to practice “leave no trace photography” – disturb neither our wildlife nor its surroundings. Photography, whether conventional or digital, is a gift that lets me enjoy the wonders of our amazing world visually. I think many others agree.

I’ve long been conscientious about my “environmental footprint” – using recyclable packaging; choosing fuel-efficient vehicles; keeping our trees healthy; reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage. Individually I’m not making much of a difference but together we can really make a dent.

As for Earth Day – some believe that it is the world’s largest annual non-religious holiday with more than a billion participants.

Happy Earth Day!


More Information
Here are a few articles about Earth Day and about the conventional vs digital photography debate.

For those of you who are interested in the movement, here is a link one of the main Earth Day sites.


History of Earth Day


Earth Day Action Site

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Written by Arnie Lee

Please leave your comments below or address your thoughts about this article, to Arnie via email

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

By Gordon Lightfoot


There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

Long before the white man and long before the wheel

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

But time has no beginnings and history has no bounds

As to this verdant country they came from all around

They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forests tall

And they built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all

And when the young man’s fancy was turning to the spring

The railroad men grew restless for to hear the hammers ring

Their minds were overflowing with the visions of their day

And many a fortune lost and won and many a debt to pay

For they looked in the future and what did they see

They saw an iron road running from sea to the sea

Bringing the goods to a young growing land

All up through the seaports and into their hands

Look away said they across this mighty land

From the eastern shore to the western strand

Bring in the workers and bring up the rails

We gotta lay down the tracks and tear up the trails

Open your heart let the life blood flow

Gotta get on our way cause were moving too slow

Bring in the workers and bring up the rails

We’re gonna lay down the tracks and tear up the trails

Open your heart let the life blood flow

Gotta get on our way cause were moving too slow

Get on our way cause were moving too slow

Behind the blue Rockies the sun is declining

The stars, they come stealing at the close of the day

Across the wide prairie our loved ones lie sleeping

Beyond the dark oceans in a place far away

We are the navvies who work upon the railway

Swinging our hammers in the bright blazing sun

Living on stew and drinking bad whiskey

Bending our old backs til the long days are done

We are the navvies who work upon the railway

Swinging our hammers in the bright blazing sun

Laying down track and building the bridges

Bending our old backs til the railroad is done

So over the mountains and over the plains

Into the muskeg and into the rain

Up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspe

Swinging our hammers and drawing our pay

Driving them in and tying them down

Away to the bunkhouse and into the town

A dollar a day and a place for my head

A drink to the living and a toast to the dead

Oh the song of the future has been sung

All the battles have been won

Oer the mountain tops we stand

All the world at our command

We have opened up the soil

With our teardrops and our toil

For there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

Long before the white man and long before the wheel

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

And many are the dead men too silent to be real

Conviction Of The Heart

By Kenny Loggins

Where are the dreams that we once had?

This is the time to bring them back.

What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues?

Do we forget or forgive?

There’s a whole other life waiting to live when

One day we’re brave enough

To talk with Conviction of the Heart.

And down your streets I’ve walked alone,

As if my feet were not my own

Such is the path I chose, doors I have opened and closed

I’m tired of living this life,

Fooling myself, believing we’re right

I’ve never given love

With any Conviction of the Heart

One with the earth, with the sky

One with everything in life

I believe we’ll survive

If we only try

How long must we all wait to change

This world bound in chains that we live in

To know what it is to forgive

And be forgiven?

Too many years of taking now.

Isn’t it time to stop somehow?

Air that’s too angry to breathe, water our children can’t drink

You’ve heard it hundreds of times

You say you’re aware, believe and you care,

But do you care enough

To talk with Conviction of the Heart?

Before and After

Photo Souvenirs

This past year, we’ve had to halt a lot of our regular activities because of the Covid pandemic.

Among these is visiting salons to keep our hair under control.

With the availability of vaccines and by maintaining the recommended safety precautions, some of our family has been able to trim our long, difficult hair.

We decided that it would be fun to record our “looks” from 2020 and 2021. Below you can see the results.










For some of us, we resorted to cutting hair in the yard.

Maybe you’d like to keep souvenir photos like these for your posterity. Snap, snap, snap.

Snapshots Too

 

I’ve taken an awful lot of photos over the years – some were for professional purposes, some were obligatory (family weddings, birthdays, etc.) and some (many, many, many) were for my own pleasure.

This last category is a group that I consider fun photos. I’ve put a large number of them into my snapshot gallery and I’m happy to share them with you. Please click here and I’ll take you to see them.

Virtual Art Museum

from the digital archives


In one of my previous careers I was a frequent traveler.

Since the early 1980s, business has taken me to France dozens of time. During my free time I’d often visit the extraordinary art museums of Paris.

Musee d'Orsay
Musee d’Orsay in Paris

In the early years I was able to photograph most of the artwork. However, a few years later many of the museums began to put a moratorium on taking photographs.

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, none of us are able to visit these art museums so I’ve come up with an alternative.

Below is a small set of artwork that I have photographed and collected over the years. Most were taken at the famous Musee d’Orsay.

I hope you’ll enjoy this artwork as you take a walk through my virtual art museum

Also available is my Virtual Art Museum video for those of you who prefer to just sit back and watch the masterpieces scroll by.

[Click on any of the paintings to enlarge]

Vincent Van Gogh

Church at Auvers
Vincent Van Gogh

Thatched Cottages at Cordeville
Vincent Van Gogh

Dance Hall in Arles
Alfred Sisley

Footbridge at Argenteuil
Henri Matisse

Luxe, Calme et Volupte
Edgar Degas

Dancer with a Bouquet Bowing
Edouard Manet

Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets
Paul Gauguin

Yellow Haystacks
Vincent Van Gogh

The Siesta (after Millet)
Paul Gauguin

Vairumati
Paul Gauguin

The Red Dog
Vincent Van Gogh

Self portrait
Claude Monet

Woman with a Parasol
Gustave Caillebotte

Floor Planers
Claude Monet

Le Dejeuner
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Grande nu
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Portrait of Julie Manet
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Young Girl Seated
Vincent Van Gogh

The Church at Auvers
Claude Monet

Les Coquelicots
Pierre-August Renoir

Bal du Moulin de la Galette
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Dance in the Country
James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Whistler’s Mother
Claude Monet

The Boat at Giverny
Thomas Couture

The Romans of the Decadence

For those of you who prefer to view these artworks more leisurely, here’s the same Virtual Art Museum video.

Virtual Art Museum
“Here Heather” Music by Lee Bartley
Photos by Arnie Lee

Written by: Arnie Lee


What’s your POV?

It pays to have a different point of view

Most everyone has an opinion – a point of view if you will. But in photography, the POV acronym has a special meaning.

Point Of View refers to the position of the camera when you click the shutter. By varying the camera’s position you can easily change the composition and “interest quotient” of your image. A simple change in the position of your camera can turn your photograph into a winner.

And of course you’re the key to making this happen.

Try moving closer or further away from your subject. Bend at the waist. Get down on your knees. Turn the camera from the horizontal to the vertical orientation. Lift your camera above your head. Point the camera downward. I think you get the point.

For some suggestions, check out a few of the examples below.

[ Click on any image to enlarge ]

Look Down

For these shots, I’m viewing the subject from above. I’ve filled the frame to emphasize the subject rather than the background. All of these are shot using a standard focal length.

Eye Level

Lowering your camera to meet the subject’s main feature gives a more intimate feel. Moving closer or further away from the subject changes the scale (size) of the subject. Just a few steps can make a noticeable difference. Kneeling or bending over may be part of the routine to get the shot.

Look Up

By shooting upward you can get a very different capture that alters the facial aspect in portraits. Doing so may also emphasize or exaggerate the height of the subject.

How Low Can You Go?

For a couple of these shots, we had to lay prone on the ground to produce a more dramatic view. Some of the newer cameras have a swivel viewfinder for composing low or ground level pictures.


After you’ve paid for your camera, photography is just about FREE. So get out there and show yourself and others that you have an interesting POINT OF VIEW.



Written by: Arnie Lee



Aircraft Nose Art

Artists at Work

I’m lucky to have had several interesting careers. One of these was to develop flight simulation software.

Among the most enjoyable parts of our business was to attend the well-known summer Oshkosh air shows. At Oshkosh are acres upon acres of aircraft of all makes and models from vintage to classic to state-of-the-art to futuristic.

visitors viewing the warbirds at the Oshkosh air show

As a history buff, I love wandering among the hundreds of war planes covering the fairgrounds. Rather than show you the warplanes themselves, I’ve collected a series of artistic pictures that adorn the noses of these aircraft.

Enjoy the nose art that inspired our courageous airmen in years gone by.

[ Click on any image to enlarge ]


Written by Arnie Lee


My Portfolio

Fine Art Photography

In my travels, a camera has always been close to my side. Photographs such as these are my way of remembering some of the amazing places that I’ve visited over the years.


Oxbow Bend, Tetons

Merced River, Yosemite

Huntington Beach

Monument Valley

Cottonwood Creek, Tetons

Madison River, Yellowstone

Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park

Zion Nat’l Park

From the tens of thousands of photos that I’ve taken, I’ve created a portfolio of my favorites.

Visit my portfolio of fine art photographs at Gallery.