Chris Muhl

The Blog

I’m just finishing up a reproduction of a National Park Service map (NPS). I love the mapping style that the NPS has developed. I wanted to dive deep into a couple of their maps and explore their techniques. Reproductions are a great way to explore the mind and creative process of another artist, or this case, cartographer, or team of cartographers.

I found two NPS maps, one of Glacier National Park and one of Denali National Park. I blended styles from each map and incorporated some of my own styles to create my reproduction.

I changed some elements along the way. I developed a different shaded relief that has a bit more texture. I also reduced the amount of green area in the colorramp and altered some labeling styles.

I’m still working on labeling, but the bulk of the work is done. If you have any questions about how I created this map, please feel free to ask.

The Originals

Glacier National Park

Denali National Park

In Glacier National Park (GNP) glaciers are retreating in response to global warming. The loss of the Park’s glaciers is presentably a major concern, as they play a fundamental role in regulating water flow and temperature throughout the year. As glaciers vanish, water flows decrease and stream temperatures increase. In consequence, temperature sensitive aquatic insects that form the basis of the aquatic food chain may experience local extinctions.1 This in turn, may reduce the prey base for native bull trout and cutthroat trout within GNP.1 At the same time, less water equates to drier landscapes. Increasingly severe wildfire conditions may occur, jeopardizing the natural ecosystem, air quality, and human property and life.1 The loss of the Park’s glaciers will also reduce melt water for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and tourism.1

Recently, I came across GIS data for historical glacier extents in Glacier National Park (GNP). I have used ArcGIS Pro, Photoshop, and Illustrator to produce a visualization of the area surrounding the Grinnell Glacier, one of the Park’s larger glaciers. I have tried to blend government acquired imagery, 3D modeling techniques, and a National Geographic layout style to produce a snapshot of events occurring within the park.

Click here to learn more about glacier retreat in Glacier National park.

The data for the 1966, 1998, 2005, and 2015 extents can be downloaded here. The data for the mid-19th century extents can be downloaded here.


1 Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park. USGS.gov. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/norock/science/retreat-gla ciers-glacier-national-park?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

I recently had the pleasure of creating a 3D map of the Sandy River Delta. This 1,500 acre area lies along the southern shore of the Columbia River and is situated between the western extent of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and the eastern edge of the Portland Metropolitan Area.

Today, the Delta is an easily accessible recreational area catering to nature lovers. However, the Delta’s history is a fascinating one, marked by severe environmental degradation and a remarkable story of ecological revival.

Formation: Birth of the Delta Landform

This fertile landform is the product of both past and present natural forces. Significant sediment deposition occurred during the Old Maid and Timberline eruptive periods as lahars originating on the slopes Mt. Hood flowed down the Sandy River to the Columbia (Pierson, Scott, Vallance, & Pringle, 2009). Ongoing sediment deposition occurs from the natural processes of the Sandy River and overbank flood deposits from the Columbia River.

Alteration: Paradise Lost

Historically, the Delta was a wooded, riparian wetland providing habitat for salmonoids, waterfowl, herptiles, and other wildlife (Kelly, 2002). The area was altered extensively throughout the 1900s.

In 1931, the East Channel of the Sandy River was dammed to increase fish runs. While intentions were good, the dam ultimately reduced habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead by destroying the extensively braided shallow-water habitat in the East Channel and impairing backwater habitat throughout the Delta (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2013).

In 1948, the Vanport Flood tore through the area and leveled its woodlands. With the trees gone, people moved in, using the land for farming and grazing.

In the 1950s, agricultural activities came to a halt when fluoride contamination produced by a nearby aluminum plant sickened residents and killed livestock.

Ultimately, the Delta’s vibrant natural ecosystem was severely degraded. Water courses were altered, wetland areas were drained, native vegetation was stripped away, and invasive plants infested the landscape.

Restoration: Return to the Natural Order

In 1991, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) acquired 1,400 acres of the Delta and began the process of restoring it. Invasive plants have been removed and more than one million trees have been planted. In 2013, the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) removed the dam and restored the East Channel.

Today, the Delta is again a thriving natural ecosystem thanks to the collaborative work of USFS, USACE, the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Trust for Public Lands, Ducks Unlimited, Ash Creek Management, Friends of Trees, the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Columbia Land Trust, Columbia Riverkeeper, Project YESS, SOLVE, Trees of the Gorge, and hundreds of volunteers.

Map Production

I envisioned this map from an interpretive design perspective. I wanted to focus on the area in its present form and utility to reveal how restoration efforts have created a flourishing natural area that benefits both wildlife and recreationists.

Artistically, my main objective was to create symbols and styles that not only stand out on aerial imagery, but also look nice. Aerial imagery is an incredible resource. However, mapping with it presents challenges, as it can be difficult to create contrast without using bright, neon colors. Extremely vibrant colors can be beautiful in some mapping situations, but are often difficult to pair with true color imagery.

I created two versions of the map, one viewing the Delta from the north and another viewing the area from the south. Personally, I like the version that depicts the Delta from the mouth of the Sandy River (looking inland). However, I believe the version that depicts the delta from inland and looking toward the Columbia River may be easier for recreationists to interpret given the location of the parking lot (the starting point of the trail network).

Thanks for reading!

Preamble

I have been meaning to write this post for a while. It is about the interaction between food insecurity and the illicit bushmeat trade, the most significant threat to species extinctions. The bushmeat trade is a critical issue in the wildlife conservation arena, yet I feel that many people are not aware of it, nor the circumstances surrounding it. At the same time, I believe that many people are not aware of the present and future threats to food security, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The following information has been obtained predominately from, 1) The Future of Food and Agriculture: Alternative Pathways to 2050 (hereinafter referred to as “the FOA report”), a report released by the Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and 2) Climate Change and National Security: A Country Level Analysis, a book edited by Daniel Moran, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. I believe these sources to be credible, and the information that they contain is pertinent to understanding the future of food security on a global level. I have quoted them heavily, copying and pasting key passages to express key points and overall trends. I have tried to provide a succinct, summarized reconstruction of the comprehensive information contained within these two publications, while injecting a few thoughts along the way in support of my concerns regarding the connection between decreasing food security and the increasing bushmeat trade.

As you read through this post, I encourage you to think about this question, how will a worst case scenario in food security impact wildlife populations, especially in the low- and middle-income countries that harbor so many of the planet’s extraordinary animals?

Bushmeat: Driver of Extinctions

When I hear the word poaching, my mind drifts to dreary scenes of the carcasses of Africa’s most charismatic wildlife scattered upon a reddened earth with tusks and horns hacked off. I envision rolling seas and Japanese whaling vessels hauling minke whales up blood-stained ramps. However, until recently, I didn’t know the severity of the impact of bushmeat hunting on wildlife populations. I didn’t know that many species of great apes, monkeys, bats, rats, snakes and other wildlife are poached at unsustainable levels to meet demand within the illicit bushmeat trade. As such, I was surprised when I read the following quote on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website:

“Although habitat loss is a major cause of wildlife decline, the most immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Africa and around the world is the illegal trade and consumption of ‘bushmeat.'”1

– U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

This trade not only threatens the species hunted, but all the wildlife that prey upon these animals. For example, one of the two leading threats to African lions is prey base depletion “fueled by the increasing bushmeat trade.”2

Clearly, the trade in bushmeat is a significant risk to species extinctions. As such, ensuring food security on a global level will be a critical factor in protecting the planet’s extraordinary wildlife. However, the future of food security is anything but certain. 

The Increasing Threat of Food Insecurity

Demand for Food is Increasing

The global human population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by 2100.3(p8) This alone will increase demand for food significantly over the coming years. However, at the same time, per capita annual income growth, urbanization, relative price changes, technological change, value chain developments and globalization are contributing to an increase in per capita calorie intake, as well as to a shift in the composition of diets.3(p12) Globally, the income of the average world citizen is almost USD 11,000/year, which is twice the 1970 level of just over USD 5,500.3(p10) “Rapid income growth in emerging countries has given rise to a global middle class, with food consumption preferences characterized by a greater demand for meat, fish and dairy products and other more resource-intensive items.”3(p12)

How will we handle the growing demand for food? The answer seems simple at first, we’ll just have to produce more, right? According to experts that’s not possible without dramatic changes to the way we manage land and produce food.  

Degraded Lands & Stressed Water Resources Limit Productivity

According to the FAO report, “Approximately one-third of the world’s farmland is moderately to highly degraded.”3(p26) Globally, there are few opportunities left for further expanding agricultural areas. Moreover, much of the available land is not suitable for agriculture, and using it for agricultural production would incur heavy environmental, social, and economic costs.”3(p26)

“In many low-rainfall areas of the Near East, North Africa and Central Asia, as well as in India and China, farmers use much of the available water resources, resulting in the serious depletion of rivers and aquifers. In some of these areas, 80 percent to 90 percent of water is used for agricultural purposes. In this context, FAO estimates that over 40 percent of the world’s rural population lives in basins that are classified as water-scarce. Due to water scarcity, the rate of expansion of land under irrigation is slowing substantially in these areas.”3(p26)  

“Given these limitations in land and water resources, it is likely that the additional amounts of food needed in the coming decades will have to be produced mainly through yield increases, rather than through major expansions in cultivated areas. Unfortunately, since the 1990s average annual increases in the yields of maize, rice and wheat at the global level have reached just over 1 percent (much lower than in the 1960s), while those of soybeans and sugarcane were below 1 percent. In the last 20 years, yield growth has slowed, with recent studies even suggesting that in selected regions yields are already close to their maximum potential.”3(p27) 

Agricultural Investments are Lacking

With land and water resources tapped out, increasing yields will be dependent upon increasing investments in agriculture and agricultural innovation. While the value added through investments in high income countries is increasing, that in low-income countries, particularly Near East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin American and the Caribbean is on the decline. Limited investments in low- and middle-income countries is extremely concerning and will affect future agricultural performance, adaptability to climate change, capability to develop sustainable agricultural practices, and employment and income-generating opportunities.3(pp28-30) “Moreover, decreasing growth rates of global crop yields, land degradation and water overuse, as well as increasing levels of crop and animal diseases and growing antimicrobial resistance, all raise concerns and call for more investment in agriculture.”3(p30)       

Climate Change Negatively Impacts Food Security at the Global Level

The threats of climate change on agricultural productivity are many. “Different social groups and countries display varying degrees of vulnerability to climate change, depending on their exposure to climate variation (changing temperatures, rainfall levels, etc.), the sensitivity of their livelihoods to climate change (percentage of income or GDP made up of agriculture, forestry or fishing), and their adaptation capacity (proximity to flood plains, length of coast line, etc.).”3(p31)  

“A meta-analysis of 1,090 studies (primarily on wheat, maize, rice and soybeans) under different climate change conditions indicates that climate change may significantly reduce yields in the long run.”3(p31)  

“Climate change is already affecting the aquatic environment, for example through changes in sea-surface temperature, ocean circulation, waves and storm systems, salinity content, oxygen concentration and acidification. This will all have an impact on global – and particularly regional – fisheries.”3(p31) 

“The impacts of climate change are also expected to affect aquaculture, including through the gradual warming and acidification of seawater, sea level rises and resultant salt water intrusion, as well as through extreme events such as changes in the frequency, intensity and location of storms.”3(p32) 

“Higher temperatures and less reliable supplies of fresh water are also expected to create severe hardships for small-scale livestock producers, particularly in arid and semi-arid grassland and rangeland ecosystems at low latitudes. Furthermore, higher temperatures and water scarcity will have a direct impact on animal health and reduce the quality and supply of feed and fodder.”3(p32)

Regional Climate Change Impacts on Food Security are Severe and Projected to Worsen 

The effects of climate change in Asia, Africa, and South America are already severe and projected to worsen. These continents hold many low- and middle-income countries that are ill prepared to make the technological advances necessary to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Many of these countries are also plagued by weak governance, which may become a source of increasing political, economic, and social instability as climate trends worsen.    

I provide a few regional and nationwide examples here. I have extracted these examples from the book Climate Change and National Security: A Country Level Analysis. The book was published in 2011. It is important to note that “since 2005, [greenhouse gas (GHG)] emissions have broadly approximated levels projected from the most severe climate change scenario considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”3(p32) As such, worse case scenarios may very well be the reality. 

The Tibetan Plateau

“One of the most severe threats concerns the Tibetan Plateau region, which is potentially a hot spot with respect to both climate and conflict. The Tibetan Plateau, which has been called both ‘the reservoir at the top of the world’ and ‘the water tower of Asia,’ is the source of most of Asia’s major rivers. As global temperature rises, Tibet’s glaciers are melting and grassland permafrost is thawing at an alarming rate. The region’s warming climate is causing glaciers to recede at a rate faster than anywhere else in the world, and in some regions of Tibet by 3 feet per year. These changes will have an impact on the millions living downstream in China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Vietnam, and other countries that are dependent for their water supply on the waters of such rivers as the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Indus, Sutlej, and Brahmaputra. It has been estimated that almost half the world’s population lives in the watersheds of rivers whose sources lie on the Tibetan Plateau, and at least 500 million people in Asia and 250 million people in China are at risk from declining glacial flows on that plateau.”4(pp16-17)

China

In China, present climate change impacts “include extended drought in the north, extreme weather events and flooding in the south, glacial melting in the Himalayas, declining crop yields, and rising seas along heavily populated coastlines.”4(p10)

“A commonly cited statistic is that China feeds more than 20 percent of the world’s population with 7 percent of the world’s arable land. Climate change is expected to decrease the stability of agricultural production, causing larger variations in crop productivity. Scientists predict a 5 to 10 percent decline in overall crop productivity in China by 2030 as a result of climate change, and a decline of up to 37 percent in rice, maize, and wheat yields after 2050. This marks a serious challenge for the country’s long-term food security. If this decline in supply were to result in global scarcity and elevated food prices, it could have particularly severe impacts in Africa, where food insecurity is a grave threat.”4(p13)

“The effect of climate change on the glaciers of China’s Tibetan Plateau will have severe repercussions for the country’s lakes and river systems. The total area of its western glaciers is projected to decrease 27.2 percent by 2050. During this same period, glacier thawing will increase water discharge by 20 to 30 percent per year until water levels peak between 2030 and 2050. This increased water discharge would then decline as the glaciers disappear. The mountain and highland lakes that rely on inland glaciers for recharge, such as the lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and Pamir Plateau, could initially enlarge as a result of glacier melting but will eventually shrink as the glaciers are reduced over time. The Yellow and Yangtze rivers, which support the richest agricultural regions of the country and derive much of their water from the Tibetan glaciers, will initially experience floods as the glaciers melt, and then drought, once the glacial runoff is gone.”4(p11)

India

As with China, India holds more than a sixth of the world’s population. As such, its agricultural woes impact a significant percentage of humanity.

“Water shortages will affect the country’s agricultural production, especially in the already-arid regions of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. [Shortages] could curtail agricultural production even in India’s granary states of Punjab and Haryana. A depletion of internal food supplies would mean inflation in food prices, which would affect the poorer sections of India disproportionately. Added to this is the increasing global demand for food, shortages of supply in the global market in general, and the price increases that would follow from the increasing need to import food.”5(p75)

“The melting of snow from the Himalayan glaciers means that India’s major rivers – especially the Ganges, its tributaries, and the Brahmaputra – could alternate between abnormally low flows in the early summer and winter months and extraordinarily high flows during the monsoon, posing the  double risk of drought followed by flood. The glaciers on both sides of the Tibetan Plateau and its Himalayan rim, which are the source of water for the Indus, the Ganges, and Brahmaputra, along with several river systems in China and Southeast Asia, have been melting rapidly…”5(p75) “India’s vulnerability in this respect is amplified by the fact that more than 60 percent of its population still depends on the vagaries of the monsoon for subsistence farming. The impact of climate change would therefore depend on whether the annual Indian monsoon, which is the single biggest influence on agriculture, will remain stable and cover its normal area during the June-August period of the year.”5(p75) “If monsoonal rains become increasingly erratic as a consequence of global warming, there will likely be serious food shortages in the regions that depend on them, unless new farming technologies are implemented quickly. [However,] the agricultural sector, on which a large majority of the population depends for basic sustenance, has been growing at the lowest rate of any of India’s economic sectors in recent years. The economic reforms initiated since 1991 have primarily affected services and industry. Increased food imports are a very constrained solution, because of the likelihood that major food shortages in India will be echoed elsewhere in the world, and because the cost of imported food exceeds what those Indians most likely to be affected will be able to pay.”5(pp75-76) 

“Another major issue facing India in the climate area would be a rise in sea levels. India has a coastline of 12,700 kilometers [~7,891 miles]. According to one study, a 1-meter rise could cost the economy approximately 2 trillion rupees [~USD 27 billion] due to the impact on fisheries, shipping, and port facilities in the three main cities of Chennai, Mumbai, and Calcutta, while displacing 7.1 million Indians. This will also have an impact on agriculture due to the loss, by flooding, of low-lying arable land along the coastline. Fisheries would also suffer, and the effect would be devastating for those who rely on small-scale traditional fishing.”5(p76)

Bangladesh

With over 164 million people, Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous country. “Bangladesh’s location, combined with the dominance of floodplains and low elevation from the sea, has made the country exceptionally vulnerable to ongoing climate change.”6(p103) The livelihoods of millions of Bangladeshis are at risk from “sea-level rise, severe storms, repeated floods, increased water salinity, and worsening water scarcity.”6(p112) These events “will directly affect the availability of food”6(p112) and make the country dependent upon the international food market.6(p112)  

In brief, “the impact of climate change on Bangladesh is as follows: A one-meter rise in sea level would submerge one-fifth of the country by 2050-2075. Cyclones would be creeping deeper in the delta because of saline intrusion. Cyclone velocity would increase, and storms would be increasingly more intense.”6(p104) “Floods would be more frequent; irregular rainfall would make it difficult for farming; and the North-West would become drier increasing the chances of greater food insecurity.”6(p104)

Northern Andes Region: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, & Peru

“In Latin America as a region, according to the IPCC, by 2030 the number of people under water stress will increase from 7 million to 77 million.”7(p249) In particular, “the countries of the northern Andes region [, including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru,] will face a number of challenges as a result of climate change.”7(p248)

In Bolivia, “glacier loss is one of the most important challenges, and the impact of glacier loss in the Andean western half of [the country] may lead to particularly disruptive consequences. Currently, the residents of La Paz and El Alto rely on glaciers for a third of their water consumption.”7(p252) “Glacier loss is also an issue in Ecuador, whose Andean capital city [, Quito,] also depends heavily on glaciers for water…”7(p254)

In Peru’s southern departments of Arequipa, Moquegua, Puno, and Tacna, climate change is expected to drive declines in rainfall.7(p254) “Less rainfall would have a negative impact on agricultural productivity in this already-arid region.”7(p254)  Additionally, water scarcity is expected to fuel interdepartmental feuds and intrastate territorial conflicts.7(p254) 

Africa

“For reasons having to do with chronic poverty, weak governance, and high dependence on agriculture, Africa is the region estimated to be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”8(p235) 

Given the size of the African continent, the direct impact of climate change varies among nations and regions. Some countries, such as those of the Maghreb, including Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia are projected to experience severe impacts. Others, including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, are expected to fare better with regard to direct climate impacts. However, weak governance may exacerbate the effects of even modest climate events. 

The Maghreb: Algeria, Libya, Morocco, & Tunisia

“Climate change will affect the Maghreb in profound ways because is it already characterized by exceedingly fragile environmental conditions.”9(p189)  “The Maghreb’s geographical position and complete lack of temperate climes renders it more intensely vulnerable to climate change dynamics…”9(p190)  

“For Morocco, 99.5 percent of the population is deemed “short of water.” According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, the long-term outlook is worse than dire. The Maghreb and the broader Mediterranean Basin will experience extensive drying associated with an expansion of the Hadley circulation cells at 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south latitude. The mean annual rainfall is expected to decrease by as much as 20 percent along the Mediterranean Coast between 2080 and 2099, with summertime temperatures anticipated to increase for the 2070-99 period by up to 9 degrees Celsius.”9(p190) 

Within the Maghreb, “the water table has decreased in recent years, which has contributed to the salinization of coastal groundwater, low potability, and low freshwater volume. As for soil, the region has experienced both intensive erosion and significant degradation, and the ‘development’ of forested areas will only [further] exacerbate these trends. All four countries have been vulnerable to desertification. The Jifara Plain in Libya’s northwest and the Ouergha watershed in Morocco are especially vulnerable to decreases in rainfall. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 97 percent of the Libyan population, and 80 percent of Moroccans were already at risk from desertification in 1997.”9(pp193-194)  

“Using IPCC projections, regional specialists within the FAO [have] argued that water runoff (the difference between rainfall and evapotranspiration) will decline, the number of dry days is expected to increase, and surface temperatures are expected to rise. The result is a decrease in the yields of key crops, the possible extinction of some species, and a silting of rivers and dams.”9(p194)

Additionally, the FAO has expressed concern “about the impact on rangelands for livestock, because reduced rainfall and increased evapotranspiration will cause significant changes in vegetation cover and organic carbon storage in the ecosystems. Livestock pests and disease distribution and transmission may also result in new epidemics.”9(p194)    

Côte d’Ivoire

“Climate-related changes that could lead to increased drought, rainfall variability, and desertification in this ecologically and politically fragile region are likely to adversely affect agricultural production of both food and cash crops, specifically corn.”10(p206) According to the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute, “Côte d’Ivoire is likely to experience substantial declines of more than 20 percent of the growing season by 2050 in six different agroecological zones…”10(p207) In the southern part of the country, increasing sea level rise and severe storm events could lead to increased erosion of barrier beaches and possibly affect densely populated urban areas and economically important coastal fisheries and palm oil plantations.10(p207)    

Nigeria

“By 2030 considerable parts of Nigeria may confront issues related to climate change, which could seriously affect agricultural production, water availability, and coastal environmental conditions. Desertification in the north and erosion in the middle belt and south of the country are major concerns, placing 90,0000 and 134,000 square kilometers of arable land at risk of degradation as a result of climate change, according to government estimates.”10(p211)    

“In the semiarid steppe environment of northern Nigeria, which makes up one-quarter of the country’s territory, there is a potential for a significant decline in agricultural production due to increased drought and rainfall variability associated with global warming.”10(p211)   

“The anticipated decline in future water availability has serious implications for Nigeria, especially given the sizable population living in the semiarid north and the rapidly growing urban areas in the south. As in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations also projects that Nigeria will see its national water situation deteriorate from one of ‘abundance’ to one of ‘stress,’ with an anticipated decline from about 3,000 cubic meters per capita per year in 1990 to about 1,300 by 2025.”10(p211)      

Senegal

“In recent decades, the country has experienced severe agricultural and livestock losses, along with extreme human suffering and fatalities stemming from prolonged droughts…”10(p215)  

“As in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the mixed rain-fed and semiarid agropastoral systems practiced in these more Sahelian regions are likely to experience negative consequences due to declining agricultural productivity and water availability. Estimates for changes in agricultural productivity due to global warming by the late twenty-first century indicate that Senegal may experience a ‘very serious’ downturn in food production, possibly at a rate eight times the expected level of global decline.”10(p215) In terms of water supply, in 2000, “two-thirds of the Senegalese population already experienced water scarcity conditions, a figure expected to increase to almost three-quarters by 2030.”10(p215)   

“The country’s important artisanal fishing industry is also considered at risk due to the effect of rising ocean temperatures on nutrient availability in the marine food chain.”10(p216)   

Southern Africa (Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe) 

In many parts of Southern Africa, “temperatures have been increasing steadily [and] droughts have been more frequent and severe, [a significant concern in a] region that is sensitive to freshwater availability. As these climatic changes have taken hold, we have already witnessed evidence of some of the intermediate effects of global warming in the form of declining agricultural production, freshwater scarcity, economic decline, and increased migration.”8(p243) It has been projected that “Southern Africa can expect a significant decrease in moisture during the growing season, leading to declines in food production and a reduction in the flow of the Zambezi, Limpopo, and Save rivers.”8(pp235-236)  

Southern Africa is “particularly sensitive to change in its water resources.”8(p235) “For instance: the Okavango Delta is Botswana’s only source of surface water; Zimbabwe is expected to reach its water resource development capacity by 2035; and South Africa’s industrial and mining heartland, Gueteng, reached the limits of its water resources in the 1980s, such that it became necessary to import water from Lesotho.”8(p235)   

In South Africa, climate change may lower “agricultural production, [and] it is estimated that climate changes will increase the proportion of South Africans living on less than 1,000 cubic meters of freshwater per year from 55.4 percent of the population to 58.2 percent – an increase of 2.7 percent –  by 2030.”8(p236)   

“Estimates for Zimbabwe show smaller increases in the average temperature, but more dramatic agricultural and freshwater availability effects. The combination of an increase in temperature and higher levels of evaporation are expected to have more serious impacts on Zimbabwe’s agricultural performance.”8(p236) 

“Lesotho is already struggling to cope with overgrazing, soil erosion and exhaustion, desertification resulting from demographic pressures, and periodic droughts.”8(p236)    

Similarly, the projected climate changes for Swaziland will interact in complex ways with its current environmental problems of overgrazing, soil depletion and degradation, droughts, and limited supplies of potable water.”8(p236)   

Lastly, Southern Africa “has a number of elements that make conflict over access to freshwater likely, [including] preexisting water scarcity, a high proportion of people living within river basins, many rivers whose watersheds are shared among several countries, and a history of international tension and competition over water resources.”8(p238)  

Food Insecurity: Driver of the Bushmeat Trade

In light of the foregoing, it seems probable that low- and middle-income countries will be increasingly plagued by food and water shortages in the coming decades. 

How will this affect the demand for bushmeat?

“Unsustainable hunting for consumption and trade of wild meat (bushmeat) by humans represents a significant extinction threat to wild terrestrial mammal populations, perhaps most notably in parts of Asia, Africa and South America.”11

“[Bushmeat] has long served as a principal source of protein and a key contributor to the food security of millions of people across the developing world, most notably in Africa, Latin America and Asia.”12 This is especially concerning given that these regions, 1) are projected to see significant increases in population numbers, 2) are at the highest risk of maintaining/obtaining food and water security, and 3) are, in many areas, already reliant upon an unsustainable bushmeat trade to meet food demands.

Furthermore, in many parts of the developing world, climate change is expected to increase conflict. Political and social turmoil have been linked to significant declines in wildlife populations. Drivers of species decline that can accompany social and political unrest include “lack of adequate protected areas for wildlife, inadequate law enforcement, and lack of management capacity in range countries…”13

In the past decade, many African countries have experienced conflict ranging from election violence to civil war, including Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Mozambique, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria.

Insuring Food Security is Critical to Saving Wildlife

Imagine a future in which severe food shortages plaque vast regions of Africa, Asia, and South America. I believe this scenario could easily drive unprecedented rates of poaching, resulting in rapid extinction events at local, regional, and national scales.

Decreasing food security threatens decades of conservation progress made by scientists, conservationists, and volunteers. Decreasing food security undermines our conservation victories and devalues the worth of the billions of dollars that have made these achievements possible.  

I doubt that even the unified strength of high-income nations, non-governmental organizations, and non-for-profits can protect wildlife from the most fundamental needs of humanity, these are, the needs to eat and drink.  

How Do We Reduce the Need for Bushmeat?

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations (UN) has developed the Sustainable Development Goals

Image Credit: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/

These 17 goals “are the [UN’s] blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, and peace and justice.”14 Supporting these goals is a critical step in doing our part to reduce the human impact on this earth. However, the UN has been criticized for neglecting to include the most important issue of all in its blueprint to a sustainable future, this is, stemming human population growth. 

The size of the global human population and its continued growth are the underlying causes of humanities most pressing environmental problems. These two factors, combined with an unsustainable way of existence, drive the overconsumption of resources, resulting in climate change, pollution, deforestation, species extinctions, loss of biodiversity, food insecurity, and so on.   

Any attempt to remediate the troubles of our time must begin with a concerted global effort to check human population growth. To do otherwise is to swim against a very big tide. 

Women’s Education to Reduce Fertility Rates

Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, I believe that education is one of the most important. Education, and especially women’s education, correlates highly with lower fertilities rates. “Educated women are known to [make] informed reproductive and healthcare decisions. These result in population stabilization and better infant care reflected by lower birth rates and infant mortality rates (IMRs), respectively.”15

Globally, fertility rates are declining. Continued investments in education will bolster this decline. In high-income countries, we can all partake in the improvement of education by voting for measures that increase educational funding and support teachers. However, population growth projections are the largest in low- and middle-income countries. Slowing population growth in Africa and Asia is critical to ensuring global food security. As such, support for national and intergovernmental educational programs and donations to non-governmental organizations devoted to improving education, specifically women’s education, are of paramount importance. Donations to schools, such as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and non-profits, like Room To Read, are excellent ways to support women’s education in the developing world.      

Improving Education Among all Nations to Reduce Demand for Resource Intensive Foods and Excessive Waste

“Agricultural production is expected to rise worldwide in response to population growth, dietary changes and increased incomes. Raising consumer awareness about environmentally sustainable and healthier diets, reducing food waste, pricing food to reflect the negative externalities of its production, and limiting the use of grains for biofuel production will all be critical to curb the demand for agricultural products.”3(p14)  

Healthier Diets and Lifestyles Can Reduce the Strain on Food Production

“Rapid income growth in emerging countries has given rise to a global middle class, with food consumption preferences characterized by a greater demand for meat, fish and dairy products and other more resource-intensive items. While progress in increasing overall calorie availability globally is welcomed, concerns have arisen about the accompanying shifts in dietary patterns away from staples such as cereals, roots and tubers and towards increasing consumption of livestock products, vegetable oils, sugar, and processed and fast foods. This “nutrition transition” has also been seen as a tendency towards the convergence of diets to the Western European or North American model, and in turn linked to the increasingly widespread prevalence of overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases.”3(p12)

Interestingly, “in high-income countries, obesity prevalence is highest among the poor, while overweight is prevalent across all wealth groups. In contrast, in low-income countries, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher among wealthier individuals than among poorer individuals.”16(p1) In high-income countries the link between poverty and obesity occurs because, 1) low-income “families choose high-fat foods dense with energy – foods such as sugars, cereals, potatoes and processed meat products – because these foods are more affordable and last longer than fresh vegetables and fruits and lean meats and fish,”17 2) “poor neighborhoods have a disproportionate number of fast food chains and small food stores providing cheap, high-fat foods,”17 3) “economic insecurity – such as trouble paying bills or rent – leads to stress, and people often cope by eating high-fat, sugary foods,17 and 4) low-income families can lack the financial resources to engage in physical activity (i.e., unsafe neighborhoods, gym memberships, recreational equipment…) and lead more sedentary lives.18   

All nations can play a part in reducing the strain on food production by improving nutritional education and access to healthier foods. At the same time, governments can improve overall health and well-being by investing in programs that promote more active lifestyles among lower-income demographics.   

Reducing Food Waste

The figures on food waste are staggering. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year  – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes [~1.43 billion tons] – gets lost or wasted.”19  “Every year, consumers in [developed] countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes [~244 million tons]) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes [~253 million tons]).”19 “If just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.”19 “At the retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.”19 In other words, enormous amounts of food are discarded simply because it doesn’t meet the “appearance standards” of markets or restaurants. 

In the United States, the “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more food reaches landfills than any other material in our municipal solid waste (MSW), making up over 24 percent of MSW…”20 “In 2018, approximately 103 million tons of wasted food were generated in the industrial [food and beverage manufacturing and processing], residential [households], commercial [restaurants, fast-food chains, catering, sports venues, hotels…], and institutional [schools, colleges, universities, military installations, hospitals, correctional facilities, nursing homes…] sectors. Excluding the industrial sector, approximately 63 million tons of wasted food were generated in 2018.”20 

Clearly, food waste is a significant threat to food security. “By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations.”21 Individually, we can make changes at home to reduce our food waste. These changes include storing food in storage containers; freezing food; preparing, cooking, and freezing perishable meals ahead of time; using foods that are past their prime in smoothies, soups, and casseroles; ordering only what you can eat and/or saving leftovers when eating out. To learn more, see the EPA’s recommendations on Reducing Wasted Food At Home.  

Fighting Climate Change

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”22 

Climate change is a clear and present danger to global food security. The most fundamental contribution people can make to reverse the climate change trend is to stop denying climate change. With matters related to planetary conditions, we must believe scientists, not politicians. Scientists devote their lives to their areas of expertise. They travel the world and process volumes of data to reveal trends in the Earth’s systems. They use historical data to develop mathematical models that are used to project future events in both the short and long term. Politicians on the other hand, serve the interests of industry and economy in the short term. Politicians are not experts in science. They have not devoted their lives to the study of the Planet. Most have no sound understanding of statistics, physics, chemistry, or any of the other disciplines that provide for the understanding of scientific research. Would you ask an accountant to design a spaceship to travel to Mars? Of course not. You would employ the combined knowledge of thousands of experts. Why would anyone rely upon the words of a politician to build their understanding of the Earth’s natural systems? Politicians possess neither the education, nor the experience to provide such guidance. 

Mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change begins with reason. We must trust the consensus of the majority of experts. And in so doing, we must collectively support policies founded upon the consensus. 

Individually, we have to strive to develop lifestyles that promote a sustainable human existence. A recent publication, The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions, conducted by researchers as the Lund University Centre for Sustainable Studies and the University of British Columbia, identifies “four lifestyle choices that most reduce your carbon footprint.” These are, 1) eat plant-based diets, 2) reduce air travel, 3) live car-free, and 4) have fewer children.23 Admittedly, I look at these lifestyle choices and see the challenges inherent in each. However, small changes in our individual lifestyles can collectively amount to tremendous progress towards sustainability. Our “sacrifices” do not need to be immediately monumental to affect tremendous change. Furthermore, dietary changes, telecommuting for work, and having fewer children can all lead to significant improvement in physical and mental heath.

Change: Hurdles and Rewards

Plant-based diets can be costly, especially when comprised of organic foods. Meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are not yet affordable for everyone. And developing the nutritional education required to create a healthy plant-based diet requires both learning and the time to figure out what diet works for you. Furthermore, many people simple have no desire to give up meat. However, if we truly want to ensure food security for our children and future generations, we must reduce our individual impact on the planet. The production of meat, fish, and dairy products is resource intensive. In a future characterized by resource scarcity, we will have to embrace every agricultural efficiency. We can all reduce our intake of animal-based foods. Eating less meat- and dairy-based fast-foods is a great place to start. Over time, we can move toward increasingly plant-based diets, and for many of us, we may dramatically improve our physical health in consequence. 

Air travel has certainly made the world a whole lot smaller. It provides the opportunity for everyone to travel to every part of the globe. It enables families and friends to spend time with one another far more often than would otherwise be possible. As such, for individuals, reducing air travel requires a deeper analysis of personal needs and desires. For example, if time with family is of upmost importance, perhaps we should consider jobs closer to home? If we want to travel and see the world, perhaps we can reduce our carbon footprint by taking longer trips less often? And while exotic journeys appeal to us all, we don’t have to travel far to discover incredible beauty and exciting adventures. Air travel is all about destinations. Few people truly enjoy long hours in a cramped airline cabin. It is possible to create far more memorable journeys with other means of travel. Increasingly, motorcycles, cars, and trains will become all-elective and powered from renewable energy, providing the opportunity for ecofriendly sight-seeing all along the journey to a destination. For companies, air travel has been essential for business development and growth. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that telecommuting is not only effective, but costs reductive. Desirable business outcomes can be achieved with substantially smaller office spaces, or none at all.   

Living car-free presents unique challenges for everyone. It is simply not an option for many people. In the US, many cities do not provide the public transportation infrastructure needed to facilitate a car-free lifestyle. Yet, despite this, enormous gains can be made through small lifestyle adjustments. For example, combining errands can drastically reduce fuel consumption. “Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.”24 Running errands via carpooling and public transit with family and friends can become a fun experience in and of itself. And active transportation (biking, walking…) offers obvious health benefits. At the same time, as mentioned above, the increasing prevalence of hybrid and all-electric vehicles will greatly reduce carbon emissions, especially as electrical grids become more reliant upon renewable energy sources. By embracing these new technologies (instead of resisting them) and making small changers in our transportation habits, we can greatly reduce our carbon footprint.   

Having fewer children is an obvious solution to reducing global population growth and easing the demand on the Planet’s resources. The irony is the choice to have more children creates increasing disadvantages for them. In other words, it’s an “advantage” only to the parents, and that’s when overlooking the physical and emotional effects that many parents suffer from the burden of care. For most families, having fewer children reduces the financial burden of raising them and increases the number of opportunities that can be provided to them. Fewer children can also equate to greater savings, resulting in more financial security, and less stress and anxiety.    

Lastly, we can also offset the environmental impact of our choices by investing in the conservation of nature. For example, the carbon footprint of motorized recreation (e.g., aircraft, boats, 4×4, ATV…) can be offset by donating money to organizations that plant trees or protect forests. Likewise, we can offset the impact of our travels through donations as well. Offsets may not afford an entirely balanced approach to reducing our impact, but their use is significantly better than doing nothing.   

Overall, I firmly believe that we can develop sustainable lifestyles while creating far more rewarding ways of living. We will free our minds of all the things we think we need and discover all the wonders we truly desire. And in the process, we may greatly improve our physical and mental health.

Ending Corruption & Strife

While it is obviously important for high-income nations to respect the sovereignty of low- and middle-income countries, the suffering of innocent civilians as a consequence of political turmoil must not be overlooked. Multilateral efforts must be made to ensure that all people can enjoy the benefits of peace, justice, and strong institutions. This is the foundation upon which nations can develop food security and prevent environmental degradation. Efforts to improve the political, economic, and social institutions of developing nations are critical to alleviating the burden on the natural world. Those of us in high-income countries must support the programs of governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and non-profits working to develop stronger institutions in low- and middle-income countries.          

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

Humanity is a global community of ~7.6 billion people. But we are not alone. We share this earth with trillions of other lifeforms. And we all share, in our own unique ways, in the struggle for survival. While it is easy to see our own struggles as individual, the reality is that they are communal. The ecosystems of the world cannot function if their components have been destroyed, and the societies of humanity cannot function without ecosystems. Consequently, human survival hinges on the conservation of the natural world. If we wish to see the magnificence and utility of nature protected in perpetuity, we must develop a sustainable human existence at the global level. We must work together to ensure that no nation is left behind as we develop more equitable, healthy, and sustainable ways of living. And we must provide for the needs of all people if we are to prevent the destructive consequences of deprivation. 


References:

1. Bushmeat. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service International Affairs. https://www.fws.gov/international/wildlife-without-borders/global-program/bushmeat.html#:~:text=Although%20habitat%20loss%20is%20a,and%20consumption%20of%20%22bushmeat.%22

2.  Bauer, H., Packer, C., Funston, P.F., Henschel, P. & Nowell, K. 2016. Panthera leo (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15951A115130419. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T15951A107265605.en. Downloaded on 09 December 2020.

3. FAO. 2018. The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050. Rome. 224 pp. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

4. Lewis, J.I. (2009). China. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 9-26). Georgetown University Press.

5. Paul, T.V. (2011). India. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 73-84). Georgetown University Press.

6. Riaz, A. (2011). Bangladesh. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 103-114). Georgetown University Press.

7. Eaton, K. (2011). The Northern Andes. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 247-258). Georgetown University Press.

8. Munemo, N. (2011). Southern Africa. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 233-245). Georgetown University Press.

9. White, G.W. (2011). The Maghreb. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 189-201). Georgetown University Press.

10. Beck, L.J. and Pires, E. M. (2011). West Africa I. In D. Moran (Ed.), Climate Change and National Security, A Country Level Analysis (pp. 203-220). Georgetown University Press.

11. Ripple W.J., et al. 2016. Bushmeat hunting and extinction risk to the world’s mammals. Royal Society open science 3: 160498. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160498

12. Cawthorn, D. & Hoffman, L.C. 2015. The bushmeat and food security nexus: A global account of the contributions, conundrums and ethical collisions. Food Research International. Volume 76, Part 4, Pages 906-925

13. The developing Crisis Facing Wildlife Species Due to Bushmeat Consumption. Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Committee on Resources. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-107hhrg80615/html/CHRG-107hhrg80615.htm

14. Take Action for the Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

15. Saurabh, S., et al. 2013. Female Literacy Rate is a Better Predictor of Birth Rate and Infant Mortality Rate in India. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2(4): 349–353.

16.  Templin T, Cravo Oliveira Hashiguchi T, Thomson B, Dieleman J, Bendavid E (2019) The overweight and obesity transition from the wealthy to the poor in low- and middle-income countries:
A survey of household data from 103 countries. PLoS Med 16(11): e1002968. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002968

17. Lee, H., Harris. 2012. Why Poverty Leads to Obesity and Life-Long Problems. https://scholars.org/contribution/why-poverty-leads-obesity-and-life-long-problems. Original source Lee, H., Harris, K.M., & Gordon-Larsen, P. 2009. Life Course Perspectives on the Links between Poverty and Obesity during the Transition to Young Adulthood. Population Research and Policy Review 28, no. 4: 505-532.

18. Levine. J.A. 2011. Poverty and Obesity in the U.S. Diabetes. 2011 Nov; 60(11): 2667–2668.

19. Worldwide food waste. United Nations Environment Programme. https://www.unenvironment.org/thinkeatsave/get-informed/worldwide-food-waste#:~:text=Nearly%201%2F2%20of%20all,is%20thrown%20away%20each%20year.

20. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2020. 2018 Wasted Food Report Estimates of generation and management of wasted food in the United States in 2018. Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. EPA 530-R-20-004.

21. Reducing Wasted Food At Home. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home.

22. Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warming. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/.

23. The four lifestyle choices that most reduce your carbon footprint. Lund University. http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/article/four-lifestyle-choices-most-reduce-your-carbon-footprint#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20has%20identified,free%2C%20and%20having%20fewer%20children.

24. Saving Money on Gas. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/vehicles-and-fuels/saving-money-gas#:~:text=Combine%20errands.,fuel%20and%20car%20maintenance%20costs.

If you’ve ever been to Hood River, you’ve most likely seen the majestic peak of Mount Hood reaching up to the sky. Looking to the south from the Columbia River, this 11,244 foot volcano dominates the landscape. Every year, climbers come from all over the world to summit the mountain. As such, I thought it would be fun to do a simple climbing map depicting the main routes to the top.

This was more of a quick folding map exercise than the development of a complete trail/route/recreation map, but fun nonetheless.

Starting out, I was pleased to discover that the National Elevation Dataset provides 1/9 arc-second (~3-meter) digital elevation models for Mount Hood. This data provides for exceptional shaded relief quality, even at the scale of 1:10,000 that I used in this 36″x48″ map.

For the layout, I embraced elements of typical Swiss design, such as Helvetica fonts, red/white/black color, integration of shapes to direct flow, and so forth. Additionally, I strived to keep the design clean and crisp. Again, this was a quick exercise. So, there is definitely room for improvement.

Other data was obtained from various online sources. I also digitized 2018 NAIP imagery to map certain features, such as chairlift stations and cables/routes.

Thanks for reading!

Exploring New Mapping Methods

I love to explore new ways to visualize spatial information. Lately, I have been working on techniques to transform 3D models into 3D maps using ArcGIS Pro, ArcMap, ArcScene, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

I recently completed a 3D recreation map for Hood River, Oregon. Hood River provides extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities, including windsurfing/kiteboarding, whitewater rafting/kayaking, flatwater kayaking/paddle boarding, mountain biking, hiking, and fishing. With so much to do, I thought a general reference map would be a useful tool for locals and tourists alike.

Using 3D Models to Enhance Spatial Awareness

The map is intended to serve as a visual tool, enabling people to quickly locate areas where they can enjoy recreational activities. For example, the map contains all the mountain biking trails of Post Canyon (one of Oregon’s top mountain biking destinations), along with trail ratings and information about the features they will encounter, such as berms, jumps, gap jumps, drops, and wooden ramps. Other information in the map includes launch sites for windsurfing and kiteboarding, kayaking and paddle boarding spots, local trails and trail heads, local parks, scenic viewpoints, waterfalls, and popular fishing locations.

Data Collection

The Map is a compilation of public domain data obtained via Federal, State, and Local government online and print resources. I supplemented existing trail data with data obtained in the field using a recreational grade Garmin GPS unit.

In field data collection is one of my favorite parts of any mapping project. For this endeavor, I mapped all of the non-motorized, motorcycle, ATV, and 4×4 trails on a mountain bike. Over the course of five days, I road about 120 miles and strained through roughly 25,000 feet of climbing. The end result is a complete trail dataset that I know is accurate and up-to-date.

Using ArcGIS Pro, I processed the trail data and then digitized it in Illustrator.

Achieving Relevance

I had initially set out to create a mountain biking trail map, but as it came together, I saw that it might offer increased utility as a general recreation map. While Hood River is a hot-spot for mountain biking, the adjacent Columbia River Gorge is world-renowned for windsurfing/kiteboarding, fishing, and sightseeing. As such, I expanded to include most recreational opportunities in the nearby area.

A Value Driven Approach

In creating the map, I sought to provide answers to questions that I have had while living here. For example, when I first moved to Hood River, I wanted to know which mountain biking trails had berms, jumps, and drops. Unfortunately, local trail maps only provide ratings, and online maps can be surprisingly time consuming to navigate. In this map, I have attempted to make information easily accessible. I provide information, such as trail descriptions, park locations, and fishing opportunities, in visual depictions that I hope can be interpreted quickly and effectively.

Project Highlights

Wandering Through the Woods

There is something oddly exciting about not knowing exactly where you are, especially in a forest. The Post Canyon trail network is spectacular. However, some of the 4×4 trails above the Green Point Reservoirs are not so easy to follow. At times, I believe they blend into old dozer lines from the Eagle Creek Fire. Other times, they simply seem to vanish, and I’d find myself walking through the forest hoping to find the trail again. To track some elusive trails, I spent considerable time comparing contours on a print map with those on my GPS. So much time in fact, that eventually the print map just gave up. Note to self, “practice better map care, and/or bring two maps.” Especially, if you’re wandering off the beaten path.

Incredible Views

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. The Gorge lies between snow-capped volcanoes and contains an abundance of waterfalls and breathtaking views. And Sunsets over the Columbia River are, well, as Sam Neill put it in the Hunt for the Wilderpeople, “Pretty majestical…” If you haven’t seen the Gorge, I highly recommend that you come check it out… when it’s safe to travel again.

If you’re ever riding the Post Canyon trails, be sure to check out this lookout. It’s off the 160 trail, slightly northeast of the junction of Riordan Hill Dr. and Forest Road 1006. Though not in the photo, Mount Saint Helens is also visible from this lookout.

I hope you’re all well and keeping safe. Wishing you all the best this holiday season!

Winter is fast approaching here in Northern Oregon. Temperatures are starting to dip below freezing. Growth in the Gardens has slowed almost to a standstill.

I am amazed how much these two little gardens have provided. The first round of radishes were harvested around the 20th of April. Now, more than six month later, we are still harvesting kale and broccoli.

It has been rewarding learning about how to grow and harvest food. And who knows, with the uncertainty that climate change brings, it may be increasingly important for all of us to learn about and reconnect with the basics of self-sufficiency and sustainable living. Luckily, nature does most of the work. All we have to do invest a little time and a little love.

I hope you all are doing well and continuing to stay safe. Happy holidays!

Here are a few highlights from the 2020 growing season.

The tools and techniques of science provide extraordinary opportunities to document and analyze the world around us. With each passing year, researchers among the various branches of science (astronomy, botany, physics, chemistry…) make new discoveries and unlock the mysteries of our planet and the universe beyond. In the process, they generate mountains of data.

In geospatial science, the branch of science that I studied in college, we work with spatial data. In other words, information about a particular location. Satellite imagery is an example of spatial data. It is a snapshot of a particular location on the surface of the Earth. Land ownership boundaries, such as parcel data and the boundaries of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) are another example. Stream locations and classifications are also spatial data.

In the US, most federal, state, and local government agencies utilize geospatial science to record and analyze events unfolding upon the lands they manage. The result is a wealth of publicly available spatial data.

The end product(s) of most geospatial projects is a map. And here is where the fun begins! Cartography, aka “map making,” provides endless opportunities to explore the art of science. Cartographers combine cartographic tools and techniques with principles of fine art to transform spatial data into fascinating depictions of moments in time. In this way, the cartographer bridges the gap between science and art and marries the instruments of the scientific process with those of the artistic. For example, while a GPS unit is a means of recording a position, it is also an initial step in the cartographic journey to a work of visual art. The record obtained via the push of a button in the field will be transformed by the click of mouse into a visual product that is “hopefully” perceived as something beautiful and informative.

I recently finished a project in which I had the opportunity to enjoy the full process of map production, from in-situ data collection to printing. And I was fortunate to be given considerable creative freedom.

The project objective was to develop a reference/operations map for a privately owned property. The client requested a final product that could be appreciated within the home as a work of art and utilized in the field as a tool for day-to-day operations.

The process integrated data collected via a desktop study with data collected on-sight with Garmin and Trimble products. Extensive digitizing was conducted on aerial images to record features both within and beyond the boundaries of the property. Data was processed and transformed using Trimble Pathfinder, DNR Garmin, ArcGIS Pro, ArcMap, Adobe Photoshop (for raster elements), Adobe Illustrator (for vector elements), and MS Excel.

In the end, several print maps were developed and either framed or laminated.

Here’s the end product. I can only provide low resolution images of the entire final map to ensure the client’s privacy, but I hope it conveys how spatial data can be transformed into functional artwork.

One of the challenges that I encountered was developing a color ramp and visually appealing hillshade for a relatively flat area. In my experience, it is much easier to develop an attractive color ramp for a mountainous area where the wider range of elevation values enables a more striking transition of color. Additionally, I wanted to use earthy colors to generate a somewhat natural looking backdrop for the content within the map. The use of a curvature layer, along with vertical exaggeration enhanced the character of the final shaded relief.

Another challenge involved labeling. With over 500 labels in the map, ensuring that all were legible, while not detracting from the visual appeal of the map was a little tricky. I initially used halos around each label to ensure that they were legible. However, matching halo colors to background colors is, not only time consuming, but inherently flawed in that background colors can vary considerably within the distance of label. The end result is a halo than blends well into the background for only part of the label. Ultimately, I used masking on all labels to create a halo-like effect, but without the color issue. Masking essentially hides all data within a specified distance of the label, revealing the background color, which in this case contrasts well with the label color. In the following image, the masking effect is most discernable where the lower arm of the letter “E” crosses the dirt road.

For the legend, I opted for a fairly simple structure. The layout resembles legends found in older maps. I find that a combination of considerable white space and perfectly aligned items create an aesthetically pleasing effect.

Thanks for reading!

I previously posted about a Grand Canyon map reproduction that I developed with ArcGIS Pro. As mentioned before, I was curious to test ESRI’s new software and to see how quickly a decent reproduction could be produced. I discussed this all in my previous post, so I won’t bore you with the details here. However, I decided to do a full-size print to hang on the wall. This is the final step in the map production process. So, I wanted to share it here.

This is the first test print. If you look closely, you may notice some dark lines in the images. These will be removed and the final map will be printed on fine art paper and then framed.

CMA_GrandCanyon_1800w

CMA_GrandCanyon_1800w_3

CMA_GrandCanyon_1800w_2

I’m working on a framing concept. Here’s a simple mock-up.

GrandCanyon_DarkHydrography_36x48_Port_20200716_2253_HoodRiver_Oregon_Muhl_1800w_Thick_Walnut

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well, learning new survival skills, and finding unique ways to have fun and enjoy life.

This here’s a garden update.

CMA_Garden_2

The first garden came together nicely. It is so incredible to watch nature just doing its thing; plant seeds, give them water, and sit back and watch. I also marvel at the thought that these plants are performing the same internal functions, growing in the same soil, drawing in the same water and minerals, yet they produce flavors that are so unique from one another.

CMA_Garden_3

I’ve been enjoying gardening so much that I decided to expand. Collecting stones from around the property, I’ve been able to create two garden areas.

CMA_Garden_4

The gardens lie on a slight slope, so they are sunken into the earth on the uphill side, and fairly level with the surrounding area on the downhill side. Basalt stones and boulders line the perimeter. Additionally, I trenched the perimeter of each garden and lay slate down vertically to a depth of about 14″. This is meant to serve as a natural gopher and mole barrier. So far it’s working. However, not so much for the cats.

Unfortunately, our furry friends were playing around in the garden and trampling the veggies. So, I had to build a fence around each area. I found a heap of free wood scraps at a local lumberyard. I grabbed a few pieces and ripped them into stakes.

CMA_Garden_1

While spending time in the garden, I have noticed that there are ants everywhere. A quick Google search revealed that ants are great for insect control. And sure enough, I see the ants combing the leaves of our vegetables for other insects. Or, perhaps they’re just farming aphids, which I hear they also do. Either way, it’s enjoyable to create a space in which life thrives.

I’ve also planted marigolds and sweet alyssum around perimeter, but they have yet to arrive. These two flowers are supposed to attract beneficial insects to the garden.

All in all, creating the gardens and growing veggies has been a fairly simple project. If you have a little space and some time, I highly recommend the experience.

Again, I hope you are all well and finding unique ways to be productive during these days of COVID-19. Wishing you all the best.

Dear Friends,

What an interesting situation we are in. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well during these trying times.

While we are separated by distance, we are united in circumstance. We share the same concerns. We share the same hopes. It is not often the thoughts of everyone on Earth dwell in this degree of unity.

I recall a book I read some time ago. The author wrote of interviews with survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and of his surprise in hearing survivors describe the event as one of the most magnificent times of their lives. The earthquake killed an estimated 3,000 people, and ignited fires that burned roughly 500 city blocks and left 400,000 residents homeless. Yet, despite the devastation, an air of unity arose. A community of people united in circumstance came together, bonded with one another, and in caring for the well-being of each other, triumphed over despair. For survivors, the memory of this camaraderie was cherished for a lifetime.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unusual incident in that we cannot physically unite. Many of the traditional ways in which people find solace, such as group exercise, therapy, or congregated prayer, are beyond the boundary of safety. So, it is a time in which introspection and creativity must flourish. We must find ways to soothe our emotional and physical condition and to keep the mind actively engaged. As the old saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Luckily, technological solutions for mediated conversation abound. We can unite with family, and friends, and communities virtually. And the Internet provides a wealth of opportunities for learning and entertaining. But the virtual world has its limitations. Movies, TV series, and online entertainment eventually become quite numbing.

I often think about the transformation of entertainment over time and how it ties into our concept of “progress.” Today’s entertainment is characterized by immediate and effortless, short-term gratification. I am not sure this is “progress.” Today’s entertainment offers little to personal or social development. We watch movies and TV series, we watch hours of YouTube videos, we play video games, but all too often, we gain nothing from them that lasts in the long-term. In fact, often we are actually just watching others who are doing interesting things with their lives, while we are just sitting, numbly watching. There was a time when entertainment fostered personal and social development. I think of the days of Jane Austen, when entertainment was walking in the woods (physical development), reading a book and conversing about its content (intellectual development), and playing music together (social development). Today, many of us are simply watching the people who are doing these things. We are watching the athletes who wander in the woods. We are watching the intellets presenting their TED talks. We are watching the musicians playing their instruments. We are watching, watching, watching, while they are doing, doing, doing. Yet, all of us possess the capacity to be a doer of any skill. We can all wander in the woods. We can all become an expert on any topic. We can all learn to play and sing and dance.

Well, here we are now, confined to our houses. What a wonderful time to reenvision the entertainment in our lives. What a perfect time to be doing and growing. Better still, we can share this experience with those around us, either physically or virtually, and improve the condition of our relationships and social bonds. We can foster camaraderie by encouraging each other to learn and grow and supporting one another as we do so.

While this is a trying time for most, I believe it can be a time of tremendous growth. As a muscle does not develop without strain, the mind does not develop without toil. Struggle is what makes us strong. And strong we will certainly become as we persevere through these trying times.

As for myself, I’m taking this time to learn more about the condition of our world. I recently read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent climate change synthesis report. And I am currently reading the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Future of Food And Agriculture report and a book on the threat of climate change to national security. For anyone who wants to know what we’re in for in the coming decades (including the increasing threat of infectious diseases), I highly recommend these readings.

Here are the links to these materials:

The IPCC’s Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report
The United Nations FAO Future of Food and Agriculture, Alternative Pathways to 2050 report
Daniel Moran’s Climate Change and national Security, A Country-Level Analysis

It has been said that what humans seek most, is the sense of purpose. And I have read that in times of disaster, people who seek and embrace roles of purpose fare better than those who do not. In studies of people who have been stranded at sea or lost in the woods, a common characteristic in survivors is the tendency to assume a role of value to the individual’s or group’s survival. For example, taking on the role of gathering food or checking a lifeboat for leaks every morning. These roles keep the mind focused on the tasks of survival, reduce the mind’s tendency to panic, and create a sense of purpose. This seems commonsensical, right?

With this in mind, I have taken some time to create a garden with my family. It’s amazing how soothing gardening is. And it has been truly exciting watching these little plants grow! In filling up the day with various roles, I keep my mind engaged and provide value to the family, which in turn, creates a sense of purpose.

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Watching the growth of plants within our garden, and the beauty of the natural world awakening from a winter’s rest, calls to my mind the words of Richard Dawkins, “Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

So, it is that nature has brought the material kingdom to a standstill, while at the same time it provides us with the boundless beauty of Spring. Here in Oregon, the trees are budding and blooming. The flowers are giving their gift to the world; pollen for the birds and bees, and beauty for the passerbys.

Should you find yourself bored, don’t forget there’s a wonderful natural world out there just waiting to be enjoyed.

In sharing the activities of my days, I hope to have encouraged you to try something new, to discover new purpose, and to learn and grow, if you are not already do so.

To everyone out there, I wish you the best possible outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you and your family and friends are safe. For those of you who have lost loved ones, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart and thoughts go out to you in this time of sorrow.

I hope in the future, those politicians in the highest levels of leadership will respond more appropriately to such events to prevent such catastrophic consequences. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this pandemic, and measures will be put in place to mitigate the severity of similar events in the decades to come.

Recently, I came across Bradford Washburn’s map, “The Heart of the Grand Canyon.” The map was published in 1978 by National Geographic.

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Image Source: ICA Commission on Map Design

Unlike cartographers today that have access to mountains of geospatial data to produce maps accurately and quickly, Washburn had to produce the data himself. The entire process of planning, fieldwork, and map production took eight years. The final product is considered the most beautiful map of the Grand Canyon ever created.

I thought it would be fun to attempt a quick reproduction of Washburn’s map using modern technology tools. I used the image above as a reference. The colors in this photo are not quite true to the original map, but I liked them, and so used it as the reference.

Washburn’s original map contains cooler colors that represent the true colors of the Grand Canyon according to his observation.

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Image Source: National Geographic

I wanted to use warmer colors that, to me, correspond to the vision of the Grand Canyon that I hold in my imagination. Admittedly, Washburn’s use of tone and contrast produce a far more interesting and beautiful visual experience.

I used ArcGIS Pro, Photoshop, and Illustrator to create the map and elements. Data sources include the National Elevation Dataset, the United States Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and National Agriculture Imagery Program.

Here’s my version below (and in the page banner above).

GrandCanyonReferenceMap_36x48_Port_20200206_1543_HoodRiver_Oregon_Muhl_ContourLabels_2200

To conclude, Washburn’s map and the story behind it are sensational. The surveying and cartographic skill that went into producing it are beyond words. However, it is amazing how far GIS/cartography has developed technologically. Washburn’s map required eight years to produce. Today, with ESRI and Adobe products, we can all create decent looking maps in a tiny fraction of the time. Production time on this 36″ x 48″ map was about four to five days.

Below, the two maps are compared side by side. With more time, I would strive to enhance contrast in the color ramp for the canyon area. Additionally, I would increase the contrast between highlights and shadows in the plateaus.

Thanks for reading my post! Best wishes to all!

Update 2/15/2020:

I found a little time and was able to make the changes that I discussed above. I believe that by adjusting the color ramp to achieve more variation and contrast between colors, and increasing highlights in the plateau areas, the map has more character. Here’s the new version below.

GrandCanyon_36x48_Port_20200215_2103_HoodRiver_Oregon_Muhl_960