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The Best and the Brightest, #NewEnglandFall

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Jeanethe Falvey

Everything is starting to taste like pumpkin, the fancy squash are out on the streets, and the cool air is bringing on thoughts of apple crisp and pie. Summer wasn’t even over on the calendar before I overdid it on the maple sugar candy. Fall is simply glorious in New England, thank goodness. Summer’s end would be downright depressing if it weren’t for the vivid tones that will soon overtake our landscape and the scent of cinnamon and spice everywhere.

Photo of fall leaves by Jeanethe Falvey, Cannon Mountain, NH

Photo by Jeanethe Falvey, Cannon Mountain, NH

The summer bunches are already replaced with early “leaf peepers.” Contrary to popular thought, these are not tiny toads, but larger, two-legged beings. You can spot them donning elongated bifocals and the latest flannel fashions from our finest outdoors outfitters. Peak season for sightings is between September and November.

We’re proud of our leaves, it’s true. So, from the Boston office, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating and embracing this beautiful time of year by sharing your photos with State of the Environment. This has been an ongoing EPA documentary of our environment today, created by your photos. While the project is not just about what’s beautiful, rather about what’s real, they’re often the same thing.

We’ll share our favorite submissions here over the coming weeks, and we have a sneaking suspicion they’ll also be shared at www.epa.gov/stateoftheenvironment as well. We do, after all, have a homegrown advantage …

Join us to document the best and brightest of our #NewEnglandFall. Here’s how: _________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Take your camera or camera-phone next time you go apple-picking, pumpkin-patching, scenic-carpooling.
  2. Sign up for Flickr (it’s free) and go to www.flickr.com/groups/ourenvironment
  3. Click “Join Group.”
  4. Upload your photos and follow the guide below to share your favorites with us.
  5. Please put #NewEnglandFall in the title, description, or as a tag. This will help us locate it among the many other photos flying in from around the world. You can also tell us where the photo was taken.

Note: if you’re new to Flickr, it may take a few days for your friends to see the photo in the group. This is a normal, Flickr thing and it’s simply to verify that your account is sharing appropriate photos. _________________________________________________________________________________
In Flickr, your uploaded photos will look like this (below). The three-dot option to the right opens up the option to share further into the Flickr-sphere.

Photo of how to use Flickr.

We look forward to seeing your splendid shots. Please let us know here if you have questions or comments. In the meantime, enjoy the slideshow below: scenes from our world today, thanks to you.

State of the Environment is open to pictures of our lives and planet as you see it. Individual scenes, taken together, build the larger picture of our environment today. Photos taken from 2011 until the end of 2013 may be submitted on Flickr. All levels of photography experience and skill are welcome.

State of the Environment is open to pictures of our lives and planet as you see it. Individual scenes, taken together, build the larger picture of our environment today. Photos taken from 2011 until the end of 2013 may be submitted on Flickr. All levels of photography experience and skill are welcome.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project lead, writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, and is having her fill of pumpkin lattes in Boston, Massachusetts.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Some Things Never Change

By Jeanethe Falvey

Documerica has me reflecting on time and change all over the place. Revitalizing and conversing about the project to others, we’re mostly hoping things have improved. With forty years of increased government attention to environmental issues it certainly has, but new challenges have also risen.

Yet, there are a few strands within what Documerica captured in its web of moments that leaves plenty of room for nostalgia. Glancing at some of the photographs you might find yourself wistful about what might have been or simply what was.

For me, as someone who didn’t live through it, I’m simply not over nor will I ever be, the incredulity that the project happened at all and was protected so that we can reflect on it forever.

Life was slower back then for one thing. What would happen now if we pulled into the station only to find another sign that said “Sorry, No Gas Today.” There are world crises, and there are individual events in our lives that force us into the slow lane, and it’s not so bad there for a little while.

Recently, I let up on my breakneck pace to go “fishing” with my father.

That morning we set out with two different ideas of where we were going. I thought we would explore my favorite lake in western, Maine. He thought, to my second favorite. It’s my second favorite for a few secrets, but one fact in particular: something always goes wrong.

Laughing, I brought this up as we took a right instead of a left, reminiscing about the last time my mom camped with us. She’s tough, but I’m not sure if it was the severe lightning or the monsoon washing away our tent that nailed that coffin.

Another time, the engine gave up in the middle of the lake. Somehow, my father pulled off the herculean effort of SWIMMING the boat back.

But it was a new day, and we had a full tank of gas.

The day was pleasant, I with a book and dad with two poles to catch that unlucky trout. Moving to a calmer cove, the familiar sound of a four-stroke struggling came back to present day.

We eventually made it back, but it wasn’t without a few photographs of the engine cover off so I can prove to our family that some things never change.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Documerica in Focus: Charles “Chuck” O’Rear

By Jeanethe Falvey

He set an older camera on the table so I would recognize him. In a quaint coffee shop in St. Helena, California, I finally had a chance to sit down with Chuck and meet him in person.

While he is the likely front-runner with the most photographs in the final Documerica collection, his images are not yet in Flickr. Only about 4,000 have been scanned into the National Archives Flickr account, but over 15,000 images actually exist and are available in NARA’s online Archival Research Catalog. It requires patience, but searching by Documerica photographer, state, or environmental topic is worth the digging.

I asked him how he took this photo, a favorite that I found:

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

How quickly did he have to duck and cover? No tripod, he confirmed. His memory of that exact photo was a little foggy, fair enough, but he said he was highly doubtful that the pilot pulled up in time. With a chuckle he said he was glad he’s still around, but that dosage of pesticides was just one of those moments that comes with the territory of being a photojournalist. Taking risks is living, he says.

His Documerica assignments took him throughout California, down along the Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, Hawaii and more. He kept coming up with ideas and Gifford Hampshire kept sending him out.

I could have sat with him for hours and just about did. It was easy to zing from topic to topic, place to place around the world. Since Documerica, he photographed for National Geographic magazine for 25 years. It was going to be a challenge to name a place he hadn’t traveled to. So I tried.

“Been to Palau?”

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Shockingly, my first attempt got him, but he has been to Yap! Yap is an island stopover on route to Palau. I saw it in the dark. During a story about currencies around the world, he photographed the Yapese Rai: large stone disks that were brought back by rafts and determination from Papua New Guinea and Palau. Today, islanders and visitors use the American dollar, but Rai are still ceremoniously exchanged.

His adventures continue; he just returned from Australia and can’t wait to get back. This weekend, take a look at Chuck’s recent work. You’ll want a glass of chardonnay and a ticket to Napa.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

All Things Great and Small

By Jeanethe Falvey

So I have a question.

When was the last time you felt tree bark? Really, actually, felt it.

On my way home last night, as the subway screeched its way through the underworld, I was thinking about this and wondering if we highly evolved humans can even see the forest for the trees anymore.

Now that it’s summertime, I’m trying to soak in all the green I can find. Everywhere I go I find myself looking at the trees, taking in their shapes and sizes, or the silhouettes made by their branches and leaves against a sunset.

Not a day goes by where I don’t miss the sheer number of trees that I grew up around. Now living in an urban area, I’ve wondered how many of my fellow commuters do too.

Our lives are consumed by a constant hustle to the next thing, the next task. Is the environment a part of us each and every day? Do we WANT it to be?

One of the harshest realities I’ve seen working in communities is that not every kid has the chance to be near, or even become familiar with and curious about nature. Nothing has ever depressed me more.

How on this beautiful planet Earth, could we EVER do what is right to protect our environment, and our health, if we don’t feel a connection to it? Will we protect what we don’t know?

Few are lucky enough to see many of the world’s natural wonders in person, but pictures can bring the rest of us there. While 12.1 megapixels can make you feel like you’re standing there yourself, our environment isn’t just the faraway or protected places. It’s the roadside litter, and the raindrops glistening on a spider web too.

The first step you take out your door IS the environment. The collective state of it depends on all of our steps thereafter. Today, I’m going outside for 10 minutes not just because it’s beautiful, but because seeing others enjoy the nearby park is witnessing that connection that I so badly hope we all want. When I do, I’m submitting a picture to our Flickr group because, after all, it’s the state of my environment. What’s yours?

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project lead in EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, Boston, Massachusetts

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Before and After – Our Environment

By Jeanethe Falvey

Until you find yourself rummaging through half stuck drawers of old photos at your parents’ house, you never notice how much the world around you has changed. You find that the grand old tree you once spent hours swinging from is no longer there, or the once small saplings around the house have finally grown into their majestic canopies. The cars in the driveway are probably different, and maybe the newer four legged family members are looking up, rather than protectively over you.

But thank goodness for photographs. For most of us, our past isn’t constantly before our eyes, but when it is, what a moment. How else could we laugh at the fluorescent mistakes of the ‘80s burned forever into photo paper nationwide? Whether it’s a revelation of time past or a walk down memory lane, holding a photograph is the most powerful way to see how much is different.

Step outside, beyond your usual world, and look around. How has time touched the landscape near you? I’ll never forget an area of forest near my hometown that was replaced by an outlet mall. While I have that memory, how great would it be to have a picture to compare to now? Could it influence the course of development, stopping people in their tracks as they realize, “I’d rather have a park for my kids to play in than yet another place to buy a shirt.”

The increasing pace of life has brought so much “stuff” everywhere we go that it’s hard to push it aside and imagine what once was, let alone what the natural world underneath it all looked like at an even earlier time.

Every Monday the State of the Environment team is choosing a place in our environment that was documented four decades ago, challenging you to photograph it today. The best “after” entries will be displayed alongside the originals in our 2012 exhibit.

This week tell us where YOU want to go. Search locations and weigh in; yours could be next! Perhaps Documerica didn’t capture a place near you, but join in anyway. Take a photo of the environment today as you see it. Find that cherished place of yours. Take a picture today for all of us.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, a New Englander through and through and State of the Environment Project Lead U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs in Boston, Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.