Eco Flight Album

November 29, 2011

This is a culmination of the Eco Flight trip.

www.ecoflight.info
Enjoy

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Day 4 began bright and early once again. Being on this Flight Across America trip felt like a few hours however it was actually a few days. I couldn’t believe that this trip had taken me so far yet the time we did it in seemed so little. One moment I Aspen, the next in Moab Utah. It was surreal. Waking up early became a daily routine and within moments of waking, we were downstairs for breakfast. Since the bulk of the trip was over, we spent our morning meal recapping our experiences with each other. Being in the plane for so long made me feel like I saw it all during the trip. That was true yes, but the final flight with Eco Flight was the most memorable.

A few minutes after being in the air from leaving Moab, the radio feed became silent. This was odd. Every minute spent up in the Eco Flight planes were filled with conversation. On that final flight, there was hardly any at all. I believe it was a deliberate action the Eco Flight crew decided to do. It was dull without something to listen to but looking out the window made everything vibrant and interesting again. It was a great time to reflect on what I got to see over the past few days. I began with the beginning of the trip…

Upon leaving Aspen, we passed through one of the most incredibly beautiful wilderness areas the Maroon Bells. We got to see the San Juan Mountain range and it’s legendary features that are so iconic for being in Colorado. We also got to see the most ancient pieces of art known to exist: the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands National Parks. Within all this beauty, we were surrounded by ecological destruction caused by human negligence. The amount of Uranium mines, coal mines, natural gas mines and power plants that were numerously spider-webbed in between these beautiful natural wonders was staggering. I realized that most humans don’t have the luxury to see the land they inhabit from an aerial perspective. This makes the destruction we cause more blurred when seeing it from the ground. But from the air, it’s a different story.

After being up in a plane for a total of 10 hours observing this stuff, I realized how the smallest disturbances on an environment have extreme effects. Even backpacking trails, some of the most leave no trace environments in the world have seen degrading effects because of the human presence. A simple 1 footed trail used for backpacking digs a permanent obstruction in the earth and even trails can be seen from a plane. The few people that stray off trail create an even larger impact on the vegetation that is near the trail. From above, this combined impact on the land is clearly seen even to an untrained eye. If backpacking trials with minimal impact have this type of effect on the land, just imagine the impact coal mine, power plant or human civilization has on the land.

On that final flight, I could see how everything on this planet is all connected. These extremely impacted sites are not far from where I live at all. They are extremely close actually. I developed an even more intimate appreciation for the land that I live on especially since that land makes up life here. As a citizen of this planet, I realized how the decisions humans have been making lately are not acceptable. Our choice to irresponsibly extract natural resources is destroying our ways of life without us even knowing it. Some of the most iconic national parks are being crippled before our feet and we don’t even know it.

“We as Eco Flight members don’t think natural resource extraction is bad, we just believe it can be done responsibly” Said Bruce Gordon President of Eco Flight. This trip wasn’t to bash a destructive method for extracting our important resources. Instead, it was a trip to expose us to the modern sites where this occurs and think critically of what it has become. When we arrived in Aspen, I stepped of that plane a different person. I had more anxiety for all the problems my generation will have to face but I also saw extreme opportunity out there because of it. I think it’s time we stop putting time and effort in shenanigan that only deteriorate life on earth. Lets begin devoting effort in the betterment of the planet.

Going on the Eco Flight Flight Across America trip showed me that our planet is a beautiful place and keeping it in a healthy state is more rewarding than ever. Humans can achieve more if they simultaneously work toward making the earth a better place. If we can do that, we perpetually set ourselves up for endless growth in the future because  progress has no limits. I walked off that plane with the desire to help inspire even the most pessimistic people out there. There’s no reason to think negatively about the world when there is so much that can be done to make it better.

Please check out  www.ecoflight.info/

Day 3 began with another early start. I totally forgot that we were not in Aspen anymore. It was nice to see that even with the sun nowhere to be found, there was no frost on the hotel windows. We were in warmer country, hundreds of miles south on the brim of the Grand Canyon in a town called Valle. There was no time to waste so everybody met in the hotel diner for breakfast. We had the luxury to share another meal with Roger Clark, Hertha Woody, Carletta Tilousi, and Cristina Gonzales-Maddux. I was delighted to hear that they were going to be flying with us that morning while giving us an airborne lecture of the issues surrounding the Grand Canyon.  Over breakfast we talked about Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and the effects Uranium has on the precious landscape that belongs to the beloved Havasupai village that has lived there for generations. I could see how this was going to be a very sensitive flight because of how passionately they spoke of the issues in the Grand Canyon. I mean we were going right into the heart of the Grand Canyon, right in the heart of the Uranium extraction center of the world. It was going to be a flight to remember that’s for sure.

After breakfast, we rendezvoused at the Valle airport. The Sun was just coming up at this point and we packed the Ecoflight planes with all our gear. Although we had only been in Valle for several hours, our visit to this side of the Grand Canyon was soon to be over; After the Grand Canyon over flight, Bryce Canyon airport would be our next stop. At 8:00 sharp, our plane was in the air heading towards the brim of the Grand Canyon. Soon enough, the massive canyon was beneath us and the radio feed became silent. Everybody was awestruck by the beauty of the canyon it put us in a state of empowerment that this beautiful landscape resides in our country. Teddy Roosevelt our past president said “The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder which a great wonder of nature. I hope you will not have any building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is.”

Uranium mine, less than a mile away from the Grand Canyon

The beauty of the grand canyon that Mr. Roosevelt spoke of didn’t last very long. Within minutes of being on the brim of the Grand Canyon, we approached our first uranium site. It was an abandoned uranium mine and boy was it something to see. From the road leading up to it, the destroyed vegetation around it to the beauty of the Grand Canyon behind it. All these integral aspects of the scene were very strange to see all in one place. We were on a tight schedule so we continued on our way. As we moved deeper into the Canyon, the magnificent Colorado river came into view. It was breathtaking seeing the Colorado. Its crazy to think that the Colorado river services 30 million Americans for their water needs. At the same time, several uranium mines are positioned extremely close to the river.

As we continued on through the beautiful landscape, we approached another unpleasant view. This time it was because of the Alton Strip Coal Mine. Just another resource extraction site right on the brim of our countries most beautiful national park. There it was, sticking out like a sore thumb; gobbling up the beautiful landscape around it. It was really bizarre to be flying through beautiful country such as the Grand Canyon to only be dumbfounded by all the human infrastructure destroying the beautiful landscape. I kept pondering the true intelligence of the human. I kept wondering how we could do such an injustice to such a beautiful place. As we continued on, uranium mine after uranium mine passed beneath us as if we were flying in circles. I knew we weren’t flying around aimlessly because eventually Bryce Canyon airport came into view. We landed the planes and jumped in the vans for a needed pilgrimage to Bryce Canyon.

After spending most of the day seeing canyons from above, it was time to be on the ground again. We went to visit Bryce Canyon on the ground so we could get the on ground perspective of the beauty of these canyons. Whether it was from the air or from the ground, these places were magnificent no matter how I saw them. I was blown away by the divine design I was surrounded by. We spent a good two hours inside Bryce before we had to go. It was a necessary two hours and it really made me appreciate these canyons from a more natural holistic viewpoint. After visiting Bryce Canyon from the ground, it was time to have some fun and see it from the air. We rendezvoused at the Bryce Canyon airport and took flight to the skies once again.

Our next stop was Moab Utah however we weren’t going there so soon. We did a few more over flights of several uranium and coal mines in the area. Slowly but surely we were moving toward our destination Utah. On our way there, we passed by one of the biggest eye sores on a natural environment I have ever seen. It was a giant potash mine. The untrained eye would think the potash mine was a giant swimming pool or a really blue lake. This potash mine was nothing close to water for potash is pretty much a vat of potassium based compounds that are not so nice on the environment. These giant vats of potash are used for many different purposes but the most common use of the potash is for fertilizer. While the beautiful yet damaging potash mine diminished in the background, we approached Moab Utah, one of the biggest capitals for outdoor recreation that exists in our country. The airport came into view and we landed. After flying all day it was nice to get back on the ground for the rest of the day.

We checked into our hotel and went for a little drive around Moab. We got to see the the horrible uranium tailings clean up site right by the road. 11 years ago, a uranium mine was decommissioned by the government and it was issued to be cleaned up. For the past 10 years, major efforts and tons of energy has been put into cleaning up this site. It is 100 feet from the road and probably 200 feet from the precious colorado river. It was that moment when it became clear to me how naive our species has become. Why spend so much time and effort mining a material that requires over a decade of cleaning up once it’s done? The site in Moab and the numerous sites in the Grand Canyon are only a fraction of the abandoned uranium mines across the world. Something needs to be done about this for it’s honestly a disgrace to our species and a disgrace to our planet to let such mines continue to exist.

After strolling around Moab, we got ready for the final evening dinner. 3 days went by so quickly it all seemed like a blur. We met at a nice Sushi restaurant where we had the pleasure to dine with Matthew Gross the media director of SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance). Matt gave us a breakdown of all the issues surrounding the Utah wilderness areas. We talked about his conservation efforts and his SUWA’s big push to get the greater Canyonlands opened up. Hearing all the positive things humans are doing for our wild country really gave me inspiration to do something about the wild country in my neck of the woods here in Steamboat. We sat around for a long time talking. Matt really was fun to talk to and he really knew his stuff. Bruce asked Matt if he would be interested in flying with us the next day and he gladly accepted. We broke off dinner and went back to the hotel. It was another extremely long day. I wanted to compile all the photos and video I shot but I was so tired I barely had enough energy to get into bed. Luckily for me, I pulled it off and fell into a deep sleep awaiting my final day for the Ecoflight Flight Across America.

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