A longtime backpacker, climber, and skier, Michael Lanza knows our national parks like the back of his hand. As a father, he hopes to share these special places with his two young children. But he has seen firsthand the changes wrought by the warming climate and understands what lies ahead: Alaska’s tidewater glaciers are rapidly retreating, and the abundant sea life in their shadow departs with them. Encroaching tides threaten beloved wilderness coasts like Washington’s Olympic and Florida’s Everglades. Less snowfall and hotter summers will diminish Yosemite’s world-famous waterfalls. And it is predicted that Glacier National Park’s 7,000-year-old glaciers will be gone in a decade.
To Lanza, it feels like the house he grew up in is being looted. Painfully aware of the ecological—and spiritual—calamity that global warming will bring to our nation’s parks, Lanza sets out to show his children these wonders before they have changed forever.
He takes his nine-year-old son, Nate, and seven-year-old daughter, Alex, on an ambitious journey to see as many climate-threatened wild places as he can fit into a year: backpacking in the Grand Canyon, Glacier, the North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and along the wild Olympic coast; sea kayaking in Alaska’s Glacier Bay; hiking to Yosemite’s waterfalls; rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park; cross-country skiing in Yellowstone; and canoeing in the Everglades.
Through these poignant and humorous adventures, Lanza shares the beauty of each place and shows how his children connect with nature when given “unscripted” time. Ultimately, he writes, this is more their story than his, for whatever comes of our changing world, they are the ones who will live in it.
About Michael Lanza
Michael Lanza is a veteran freelance outdoors writer and photographer. He is the northwest editor of Backpacker magazine, where his articles about the impacts of climate change on Montana’s Glacier National Park and other wild lands helped Backpacker win a National Magazine Award. He runs the website TheBigOutside.
Worried about the increasing evidence that global warming is affecting America’s national parks, Backpacker northwest editor Lanza crammed a year full of visits to 10 sites with his wife and two young children. Based on the premise that his children needed to see these natural wonders before the parks completely disappeared, the book is part family travelogue and part ecological observation. Scientists are not “talking about the distant future; they’re talking about ecological calamities and social breakdown on a scale unprecedented in human history, which many adults alive today will witness.” With this thought ever-present, Lanza writes with a bittersweet tone. He relishes his children’s joy as they discover these natural wonders for the first time and remembers his own first experiences. However, there is also a darker side to the narrative, as the author contemplates the sometimes-drastic changes that have taken place in the last 30-40 years. Glaciers that no longer exist in Glacier National Park, the erosion of shorelines as sea storms grow in strength, the death of Joshua trees in California’s Joshua Tree National Park—each site is under attack from events instigated primarily by humans. Although Lanza has opened the doors to this world to his children and readers alike, he offers no solutions to the current problems. His best advice: See what you can of these natural wonders before it’s too late. – Kirkus Reviews
“Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks” by Michael Lanza
The Washington Post Book Review – May 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
Michael Lanza begins this account of family camping by sketching the new — but not improved — look that some national parks will take on if global warming is not checked soon. “Yosemite’s famous waterfalls . . . will lose their impressive force and peter out earlier in the year.” “Rising seas will inundate at least one-third of Olympic National Park’s seventy-three-mile-long wilderness coastline.” “Joshua Tree National Park . . . will lose its namesake flora.” Taking along their 8-year-old son, Nate, and their 6-year-old daughter, Alex, Lanza and his wife set out to visit the wilds of 10 national parks, most of them in the West but also including the Everglades in Florida, while the going was good.
In some ways, the kids behaved as you might expect. The profusion of boulders at Joshua Tree inspired them to make the park into a “jungle gym” — not just for themselves but also for their toys. “Using a twenty-foot length of thin utility cord I’ve given them,” Lanza writes, “they lower their stuffed animals down short cliffs.” But fears that Nate and Alex might squawk about being deprived of the comforts of home proved misguided. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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