Hot times — hot damn

by Greg Hanscom

Please forgive us, this once, just a little bragging.

The cover story in this issue is the capstone of a two-year special series about global warming, written by High Country News Contributing Editor Michelle Nijhuis. The series started with a story about tiny bark beetles that are moving higher into the West’s mountain forests because of warming temperatures. From the beetle-ridden woods of Idaho, the series has taken Michelle to the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research in Tucson, to find out what trees tell us about the region’s climate, and to California’s Yosemite National Park, where she learned about the changing ranges of small mammals. In the process, she has brought a huge, tremendously complicated issue home to the residents of the West.

In this issue, Michelle takes her reporting one step further, asking, "What can we, as Westerners, do to slow this trend?" Surprisingly, she’s found a whole bucketful of answers, and a stack of inspiring stories to boot. Once again, in the absence of leadership on the national level, Westerners are stepping up to lead the charge themselves.

The "Hot Times" series has received rave reviews from our readers — and it turns out that you aren’t the only ones who’ve liked it. Michelle has won the 2006 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism for the three issues in the series published in 2005. The award, which in the past has gone to such greats as John McPhee and Jon Krakauer, comes from the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest organization of earth and space scientists. The award selection committee called the series "an excellent example of science writing for the public; engaging, informative, unbiased and easy to follow."

So to Michelle, we extend a hearty congratulations — and to all of you, a great thanks. The Hot Times Series has been funded in part by a grant from the Engel Fund of the San Diego Foundation. The rest of the funding has come from you, through your donations to the Research Fund.

While this cover story may be a wrap-up of sorts, it is not the last you’ll read about global warming in High Country News. No matter how farsighted some Western leaders have become, this issue isn’t going away. And HCN will be here to keep an eye on it.

To read the whole Hot Times series, go to our Web site: www.hcn.org.

© High Country News