Here's Mt. Everest like you've never seen it before, in 3.8 billion pixels -- an amazingly detailed panoramic photograph of Everest and the surrounding region.
This composite of 400 + images looks great on my 13 inch retina MacBook Pro. But regardless of how crisp your computer screen is, I bet you'll be as fascinated by the photograph as I was. (I've had some problems, though, getting the green hot spots to zoom correctly after being clicked.)
When I first came across the photo I spent about 20 minutes exploring the landscape. I'm now hugely more impressed with anyone who climbs Everest. Any slope I looked at seemed super-scary, some more than others.
Cliffs abound. That got me all quasi-philosophical, thinking about the "fiscal cliff" which politicians are tackling in Washington D.C. these days.
Believe me, there's no cliff like Everest's cliffs.
If we humans can team up cooperatively and figure out how to climb Mt. Everest, we damn well should be able to resolve social policy problems -- metaphorical mountains rather than real ones.
However, David Breashear, who created the photograph, has another project which is more of a downer: tracking the Himalaya's melting glaciers.
The Glacier Research Imaging Project, which I helped found, has retraced the steps of some of the world’s greatest mountain photographers as they took pictures — many of them not previously published or displayed — over the past 110 years across the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau. I then returned to those same vantage points and took photographs that bear witness to the rapid warming of the Himalaya and the swift retreat of its glaciers.
...These then-and-now pictures have a powerful effect on the viewer, one that I hope will bring home the reality — and serious consequences — of global warming. Gazing at Italian photographer Vittorio Sella’s 1899 picture of the Jannu Glacier in Nepal — a huge ice tongue filling a valley — and then comparing it to my 2009 photo, in which the glacier has disappeared, creates a profound sense of unease.
And we should be uneasy. The loss of these frozen reservoirs of water will have a huge impact, as the glaciers provide seasonal flows to nearly every major river system in Asia. From the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra in South Asia, to the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in China, hundreds of millions of people are partially dependent on this vast arc of high-altitude glaciers for water.
Facticity is a wonderful word which Breashear's photographs bring to mind. I'm not familiar with the precise philosophical meaning of the word. I just like how it brings attention to the brute fact'ness of physical existence.
We can make up all kinds of crap in our minds: ideologies, theologies, all kinds of abstractions which usually have little connection with "facts on the ground," reality minus our wishful thinking about it.
The Earth is warming.
I don't know if the panoramic Everest photograph shows the melting of ice and snow that Breashear is so concerned about. Probably it does. I was surprised by how rocky and ice-free much of the terrain was.
Everest can't be climbed without respecting the fact of it. Denial of what is, looking the other way at a more alluring what I hoped it was, leads nowhere good, nowhere productive.
We need more people like Breashear, people committed to revealing the truth about phenomena which aren't understood as well as they should be. Everest. Global warming. Gun violence. Deficit reduction.
Facts matter. There's a way to climb every mountain, both physical ones and metaphorical ones. First, though, we have to know the reality of what we're trying to surmount.