In 1993, upon visiting Alpine Pond for the first time, I was overwhelmed by its purity and the pristine quality of the surrounding forest, only hinted at in this photograph. But that is no longer the case. At about the same time, unbeknownst to me, the area was in the early stages of an outbreak of the spruce bark beetle which devastated the surrounding forest and befouled the pond itself. An explanation of this can be found here, but the effect was one of extreme disappointment when I returned in June, 2013 with my family, hoping to share with them the experience I had two decades earlier. Cedar Breaks is still a lovely place to visit -- the rock formations and scenic vistas are impressive -- but don't expect to find Alpine Pond looking anything like this!

Such beetle kills are becoming increasingly common due to climate change. As the world warms, due primarily to the emission of carbon into the atmosphere from the production of energy from fossil fuels, fewer beetles are killed by winter freezes, resulting in exploding beetle populations in milder weather. Evidence of this is widespread throughout the American West. Wide swaths of dead trees either decompose, releasing large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, or they feed uncommonly intense wildfires, which also release carbon into the atmosphere, with the added effect that many species cannot regenerate, because of the extreme heat produced by the burning deadwood. In either case, the resulting increase of carbon in the atmosphere further exacerbates the rate of climate change. This is known as a "positive feedback loop." There are many such "loops," and they interact in a manner that does not bode well for our future.