Back this project and you’ll be a Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger, part of a photo-journalism and social media team telling real-time and in-depth global warming stories from the Rocky Mountains.
It’s going to be an interactive trek, with meetups and hash-tagged Twitter chats, and supporters will have a chance to help pick our destinations and connect with researchers in the field via social media.
Join us to explore the effects of climate disruption along Rocky Mountain highways and byways.
Part of the trip will be family style. My teenage son has joined me on environmental reporting trips since 2006, when we watched transplanted Canada lynx take their first steps toward repopulating Colorado, and he’ll reach out to his peers on social media to connect with the generation that will have to live in the greenhouse-gas warmed world we’re creating.
✓ We’ll visit alpine forests that were slashed as global warming swelled populations of tree-killing bugs. Some forests are growing back more diverse than before, and the pine beetle epidemic may actually help future forests bounce back from climate change — but for how long?
✓ Long-time mountain guides and skiers will talk to us about the climate change they’ve experienced first-hand and what it means for mountain culture, sports and recreation, and we’ll do a live chat with researchers at one of the highest long-term climate research labs in the country, on Niwot Ridge, near Rocky Mountain National Park.
✓ We’ll try to learn whether some of the world’s oldest living things, the ancient bristlecone pines, can survive the next 1,000 years, then dip down from the peaks to the Colorado River to visit with the world’s biggest minnow (native six-footers were once common) and the biologists trying to protect them as global warming saps the river’s flows.
✓ Scientists will explain why southwestern Colorado’s piñon pine forests aren’t growing back in a warmer world, and we’ll check in at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado’s only World Heritage site, where an ancient civilization disintegrated as the climate tipped toward drought. Then we’ll speak with Southern Ute tribal leaders who still live in the same region to get a Native American perspective on climate change.
How will global warming change the Rocky Mountain’s beloved alpine lakes and forests?
If we exceed our funding goal, we’ll extend the reporting to commune with the vanishing glaciers in the northern Rockies, or learn why global warming is making life more difficult for butterflies and hummingbirds because their favorite wildflowers are blooming before they they complete their migration. To put it all in context, we’ll wrap up with a visit to the National Ice Core Lab in Boulder where scientists study the history of Earth’s climate.
✓ Gas, food & lodging — We’ll mostly camp and cook out so we can feel what we’re writing about, but every now and then we’ll check into a motel to recharge our devices and to go online to tell our stories and update the trip. We tried to minimize our greenhouse gas footprint in planning the routes, but gas isn’t getting any cheaper. $1,250.
✓ To tell this story live and via social media, and to produce good video, we need a few hardware upgrades. $750.
✓ Time, time & time! After 19 years of environmental reporting, there’s a lot percolating in my brain. Your support will help pay for the time to use all that knowledge to tell amazing multimedia stories about the Rocky Mountain environment. I will tell as many stories as you’ll pay for!
Wildflowers are blooming earlier. When migrating hummingbirds arrive, the nectar is gone.
We’ll do daily photo essays from each segment of the trip and try to capture at least one short video interview at each stop, along with shorter blog posts about what we’re seeing and hearing. At the end of each segment we’ll craft a story with photos and publish it on Beacon for subscribers and supporters. And we’ll curate the social media chatter from each segment under the Beacon banner on a platform like Storify. We’ll also try to work with partner publications like the Colorado Independent and the Boulder Weekly to republish the stories targeting Colorado readers.
We well visit tribal lands at the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains to get a Native American perspective on climate change.
✓ Selection of photographic art from the road trip gallery
✓ Input into route selection, destination and topic choice
✓ An invitation to a post-trip soiree in central Colorado
✓ Handwritten post cards from along the way.
✓ Access to every story, by every writer on Beacon.
Understanding how global warming will affect high mountain environments is crucial, since many species have nowhere to go once they run out of room on the mountaintop, and if the mountain snows stop, much of the West will run dry.
I’ve been reporting on these issues for 19 years from my base in Frisco, Colorado. My son is a video ninja and he’ll reach the next generation. Together, we’ll tell you unforgettable stories from Rocky Mountain byways, national parks and Native American lands.
The Rocky Mountain climate is changing fast. Join us on an environmental reporting road trip this summer.
Seung Yoon Lee
Michael E. Mann
Thanks to the Beacon team, smart readers and generous souls, we’ve reached our $5,000 funding goal and we’re starting to plan the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger journey, high into the alpine zone of the Rockies, where melting mountain permafrost is worsening pollution in mountain streams. We’ll post our first story within a week, and you’ll receive your login from the Beacon team as soon as this project closes.
You can follow the treks on Twitter at the #climaterangers hashtag, and we’ll use a Beacon forum, as well as a Facebook page, as places where you can post questions for us and for all the people we’ll be interviewing along the way. You see, this project isn’t just crowdfunded, we’re hoping to partially crowdsource our stories, and you will be a big part of that!
Meanwhile, our funding period is open for another 36 hours, so we’re aiming for a stretch goal of $1,500 to help us upgrade our video equipment and plan a longer trip segment heading north, to find the biggest remaining glacier in the Rocky Mountains — does anyone know where it is?
So for fun: *Videography Sponsor level *- For $750 you can sponsor all the trip videos. You’ll help us upgrade our video capabilities, and you’ll be fostering important life skills in a teenager who already shows talent and interest in environmental journalism.
Glacier-hunter Sponsor level - For $750 you can support our trip to find the biggest remaining glacier in the Rocky Mountains. We’re curious as to where that is?
The Whole Enchilada Sponsor level - For $1,000 you get all the above, plus a free weekend of lodging in a luxury condo at Copper Mountain during the post-trip dinner event in Dillon Colorado.
All higher-level sponsors ($100 or more) are invited to the Harvest Dinner event, featuring local, sustainable food, and presentation from the trip. You’re also eligible to choose a high-quality, large-format fine art print from our online galleries.
Please continue to share this link - http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/rocky-mountain-climate-rangers - for another day or so. Extra funding will enable us to expand the scope and quality of our reporting.
Thanks again, Bob and Beacon
A quick update: We’re in great shape, at nearly 75 percent of our goal. Thanks for your support.
If you each could share this page with five people, we’ll hit the goal in no time.
When I look over the names of project supporters, it takes me way back, because an old high school buddy, Phil Dezarn, is on the list. Phil really helped tune my appreciation for the finer points of photography, not to mention French wine.
There are also a few residents of my hometown, Frisco, who have been reading my environmental stories one way or another since the mid-1990s — Thanks, Don Parsons, Jeffrey Bergeron and Don Sather, among others.
I’m also psyched that Dan Glick, one of my favorite journalists and authors, decided to back my reporting for six months. If you’ve never read his travel book, “Monkey Dancing,” you should, especially if you’ve ever taken your kids on a trip, even if it’s just camping for the weekend. Dan’s travel memoir one of the most poignant stories of traveling with youngsters, and partly inspired the father-son nature of the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger project.
Then there’s Chris Landry, a real mountain scientist who monitors snow, weather and dust way up high in the wild San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Chris not only pledged his support, but invited us to visit his mountain lab and observation site as part of our environmental reporting trek, and we plan to make it one of our first stops.
Well-known climate scientist Michael Mann has also pledged support, reinforcing the responsibility I feel for accurately reporting climate science for the public.
The list also includes some people I don’t know and haven’t met, although I hope to, at least via e-mail. I’m especially humbled by their show of support. I’ll do everything to make sure my stories live up to your expectations.
We still have a ways to go in our fundraising push, so I’d like to ask each of you again to reach out via email or social media to at least five other people who might be interested in following the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger Project this summer.
We’ll see you on the road and around the campfire!
Photo by @CoTravGirl Bob Berwyn ponders how the delicate ecosystems of Great Sand Dunes National Park will withstand global warming.
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