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What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

- Henry David Thoreau

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Environment

Dec 03, 2018

A Buried Report; Trump Refuses to Believe it

President Trump recklessly disregards the dangers of climate change in the face of resounding scientific consensus.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Climate change is not just knocking on the door anymore. It’s over the threshold and it’s looking to blow your house down. 2018 has brought us near apocalyptic signs of climate change to both coasts of the United States. We’ve seen biblical fires on the west coast and a series of devastating tropical storms on the east coast. Like “the nothing” in the 1984 film The Neverending Story, climate change is sweeping over the planet like a dark storm with no regard for life.

The data is alarming. Sixteen of the seventeen warmest years in the 136-year record have occurred since 2001, with 2017 as one of hottest years on record. The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was the first on record to see seven storms generated over warmer, subtropical zones. And on the west coast, more than 6,000 wildfires ravaged over 1 million acres across California this year, causing damages worth more than $2.56bn – the most destructive and deadly on record.

A BURIED REPORT

On Black Friday, the Federal government published a new report detailing the nation’s imminent risks to the dangers posed by climate change. Specifically, the National Climate Assessment lays out how the United States economy and the health of each individual are at stake.

The report warned that “more frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events” are looming that will pose a threat to water resources, air quality, food and even national security. We can expect further deterioration to US infrastructure, in addition to natural resources like oceans and coastlines.

Although the report by the Federal Government contains critical information about our near future, the report was released on Black Friday, in an undeniably intentional move to sweep it under the rug.

UNITED STATES LEADERS ARE FAILING US

In a state of utter denial, President Trump has whipped up a reality distortion field around the imminent dangers facing us and even around the concept of climate change itself.

In a now infamous tweet from 2012, Trump put an unsubstantiated political spin on global warming. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”


And this past week, he confused global warming with weather, tweeting, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter All Records – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” – something you’d expect your Grandpa to say, to which you’d respond, “Oh, Grandpa.”


To see all of the global warming related tweets in between, check out all 115 Tweets on the subject, as reported by Vox.

Scientists have been outspoken that while “global warming” describes temperature increases, “climate change” is a more apt description of the process by which humans emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases that cause extreme weather events.

When asked about the National Climate Assessment released on Black Friday, Trump dismissed the report, saying “I don’t believe it,” after admitting that he “read some of it.”

We’re seeing Trump’s belief system play out in policy decisions. In June of last year, Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, making it the only country refusing to commit to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash.

NORMALIZING DENIAL

Trump’s statements on climate change, although baffling to most of us who choose to educate ourselves on the subject, nevertheless seep into the consciousness of his base, unfiltered, and propagate like a virus. Although tweets may seem unofficial and less significant than a public address, they normalize climate denial in the face of resounding scientific consensus. Trump’s message is clear – his policies and decision-making will disregard the dangers posed by climate change.

Notwithstanding Trump’s distorted reality, extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and endanger public health. Read More: About the 3 Things Everyone Can Do to Fight Climate Change Right Now.

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Athletes & Explorers

Feb 15, 2019

Flow State: The Reason Why Alex Honnold and Steph Davis are not Adrenaline Junkies.

“When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Recently, while watching Alex Honnold’s film, Free Solo, I began questioning the motives behind why he does what he does. I imagine that like me, you asked yourself, what is the driving force behind his compulsive need to risk his life? Why does he have such a passion for free soloing difficult routes, while the rest of us sit paralyzed in fear, simply watching in awe?

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the directors of the film (which has recently won a BAFTA and has been nominated for an Oscar), touched on Alex’s reasoning a little. For Alex, it is when he is climbing without a rope and is closest to death, that he actually feels most alive.

As an extreme sports athlete myself, with a background in whitewater kayaking, I can relate to this feeling. When I am kayaking a difficult and consequential rapid, my brain is 100% focused on the present moment. In the book, “The Rise of Superman” (if you haven’t read it, do so now), Steven Kotler discusses Flow State. Kotler describes it as being “so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.” Dr. Ilona Boniwell, a European leader in positive psychology, says, “The State of Flow happens under very specific conditions – when we encounter a challenge that is testing for our skills, and yet our skills and capacities are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. So both the challenge and the skills are at high levels, stretching us almost to the limit.” Flow State is very difficult to achieve. The perfect balance between challenge and skill must be met, and the result is a very elusive zone, which is tricky to replicate. In Kotler’s book, he describes action and adventure sports as the only way to consistently trigger this flow state. Flow state is often triggered by a sense of being close to death, which, in return, triggers the maximum sensation of being alive. Kotler describes it simply, “When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

I remember the first time I experienced Flow. I was running Itunda Falls on the Nile River. Itunda is known for being one of the biggest rapids on the Victoria White Nile stretch of whitewater and is a rapid that, if not executed correctly, could be fatal. I recall Flow State kicking in as soon as I entered the rapid. My mind went completely blank, and I experienced a hyper-focused state in which every paddle stroke I took, every drop of water that hit my face, every little bit of it was a slow-motion, full experience. I felt nervous before entering the rapid, but as soon as I dropped in, my nerves faded, and I relaxed into a calm state of execution. While in that Flow State, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, perfectly. I made zero mistakes and had a perfect line through the rapid. It was the first time in my life that I felt I had 100% fully experienced something – not only in a physical sense but also in a mental and emotional sense as well.

“My favourite state of being.”

In a collaboration between The Outdoor Journal and Mercedez-Benz, I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of their sponsored athletes – free solo climber and BASE jumper, Steph Davis. When asked about Flow, Davis described it as, “the feeling of taking a deep breath, letting it out and feeling totally good and at ease with nothing else in my mind and truly in the moment.”

When performing high-risk activities, like BASE jumping, Davis says her brain has no choice but to enter a hyper-focused Flow State. “With BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE, getting there is pretty much guaranteed because it seems like there’s no choice but to enter that state of pure focus when leaving the edge – although it’s a pretty short-lived experience because BASE jumping is over very quickly.”

Read Next: Steph Davis: Flow, Focus, and Feeling in Control

The film, Free Solo, suggests Alex’s ability to achieve Flow State. When I spoke with Alex Honnold about the topic (also in a collaboration courtesy of his sponsor, Rivian), he shared a similar sentiment towards free solo climbing. “I think that has always been a big part of the pleasure in free soloing is that it forces you into that state more than other kinds of climbing do.” Alex says that he can tap into the Flow State while climbing with ropes as well, but it is rare and doesn’t come as easily.

For Davis, Flow State while free solo climbing isn’t as much a result of being close to death, but rather a result of getting away from external influences. “For me, a big factor for reaching focus, or Flow, is getting away from outside energy – so free soloing inherently works really well because you are alone.” No matter how she achieves Flow State, Davis can’t seem to get enough of it. “It’s my favorite state of being.”

The Science

According to Kotler’s book, Flow State originates in the brain. The release of five mood-boosting chemicals – dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and anandamide – creates a high that athletes, just like Davis, “can’t seem to get enough of”. It’s a wonderful experience – Flow State. So wonderful, in fact, that when you achieve it, it can become addictive. Dr. Ilona Boniwell describes the addiction to Flow State well. “Even activities that are morally good or neutral, like mountain climbing, chess or Playstation, can become addictive, so much that life without them can feel static, boring and meaningless. A simple non-gambling game on your computer, like solitaire, which many people use to ‘switch off’ for a few minutes, can take over your life. This happens when, instead of being a choice, a Flow-inducing activity becomes a necessity.”

Searching for Perfection

This addiction to Flow is different from an addiction to adrenaline. An athlete addicted to Flow is not an ‘adrenaline junkie’. They are not searching for that adrenaline rush that comes when you do something risky – like bungee jumping or skydiving. They are searching for perfection in what they are doing. Honnold says he is searching for the feeling of effortlessness. “When climbing feels good, when it feels effortless, when it feels flowy. That’s Flow State. And that is the appeal of climbing in a lot of ways is to get into that state. To feel like you’re doing something well and that you’re performing well.”

“I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scraping through it”

Davis says when she has had experiences BASE jumping in which something almost went wrong and she “got lucky” – which may be a situation where an adrenaline rush could be triggered – she is usually unhappy with that experience. “For me, it’s not really seeking an adrenaline burst. It’s more seeking the ability to do something that maybe should be impossible, and yet doing it in a way that’s actually pretty reasonable… When I’ve had those moments where it just barely worked out, and I almost felt that I got lucky, I’m usually really dissatisfied with that experience. I prefer to feel like I’ve entered the situation in a very calculated way. I’ve really prepared. I’ve gone through Plan B, Plan C, Plan D scenarios. I’ve tried to really think through everything that could ever go wrong and feel like I have a plan for that. And then when it starts happening, I feel like I’m very in control of the situation because I chose to get into it feeling like I’m really ready for it. To me, those are always the most satisfying outcomes. When I either land from a jump or top out a climb and I feel like, ‘wow, you know, I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scrapping through it’.” A perfect balance of challenge and skill.

But for Steph, addiction to Flow is not the main reason she continues pursuing these high-risk activities. For her, it is simply a way of life. “I’m 46 now and I’ve been climbing since I was 18, so my entire adult life I’ve been doing these sports in various forms… it is honestly really hard for me to imagine not being out in the mountains and the desert and just doing these things that I love doing.”

Thanks to Rivian and Mercedes for the interviews.

Cover photo: Vincent Kleine for She’s Mercedes.

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