Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photo of the Day: Arboreal ‘Gate,’ Riverside Park, NYC

This is another in a series of shots I took of Riverside Park while in Morningside Heights about a week and a half ago. What attracted me the most in this scene was the frame formed by the overhanging branches, which seems to form a gate into one of New York’s most notable parks.

Quote of the Day (Timothy Egan, on Settlement as an Environmental Delusion)

“It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The ‘taming’ of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.”—Timothy Egan, “A Mudslide, Foretold,” The New York Times, March 30, 2014

As I write this, President Obama was expected to visit today with friends of the victims of last month’s mudslide in Oso, Wash., as well as first responders on the scene. Yesterday, NPR reported that the official death toll from the disaster had risen to 41, with another four people still missing.

You have to ask yourself why an event such as this occurs, particularly, as in this case, where there had been prior worrisome incidents. Perhaps the reason, as discussed in this blog post by David Ropeik for Psychology Today, lies in the “Risk Perception Gap,” or the self-delusional mental calculus that leads people to choose to go on “living in a place they like, but which could kill them.”

My guess is that the only way we will be able to free ourselves from such delusions is if the insurance costs of living in these environmental danger zones became too exorbitant. At that point, the conservative reluctance to have government save people from misfortune will meet the liberal desire to protect the environment, and, at long last, bring about necessary change in where construction is allowed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Photo of the Day: A Saturday in Riverside Park, NYC

Nine days ago, on an afternoon visit to Columbia University and its surroundings, I stopped briefly to take photos by Riverside Park. I didn’t have time to explore its full four-mile stretch running from 72nd to 158th Street, but it was still more than adequate to convey a sense of the loveliness of this urban oasis—and, as you can see here, how many people see it as vital to their lives.

Quote of the Day (Noel Coward, on London)

“I don't know what London's coming to — the higher the buildings the lower the morals.”—Noel Coward, Collected Sketches and Lyrics

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Photo of the Day: The Quad in Spring, Columbia University

Eight days ago, I spent an afternoon in and around my alma mater, Columbia University, photographing the sights. I had hoped to take a somewhat more panoramic view, from the top steps of the administration building, Low Library, but that area was cordoned off to allow for a student activity charmingly called Bacchanal.

Well, no matter. One thing, evidently, hasn’t changed since my graduation over 30 years ago: the desire of students to go outside on a fine spring day (especially tossing a Frisbee around). There’s nothing like feeling young, with the warmth of the sun lifting your spirits after a long, hard winter.

Quote of the Day (St. Augustine, on Easter)

“And He departed from our sight, that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.”—St. Augustine, Confessions (A.D. 398)

(The image accompanying this post is a detail from the painting Resurrection, by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca.)