In Nighttime Shots of Massive Wildfires, a Photographer Shows Us the Light
By Patrick Rogers
During the day, freelance photographer Stuart Palley covers news events for publications like the Los Angeles Times and shoots images for advertising and PR clients. By night, he pursues his passion: photographing the wildfires that have been ravaging, with increasing frequency, the forests, grasslands, towns and cities of his native California. Over the past five years, Palley has documented nearly 75 fires, from the Mexican border to the Shasta Trinity National Forest near Oregon.
Palley's infernal images, which are collected in a new book, Terra Flamma: Wildfires at Night, tell the story of an epic confrontation between humanity and nature. His photographs, such as the one of a man running from a burning house in Thousand Oaks last fall, named as one of Time's Top 10 Photos of 2018, depict the conflict's resulting fallout in dramatic fashion.
"On the one hand, you've got this incredible natural phenomenon that is awesome in the biblical sense, and on the other, it's ruining people's lives, it's killing people, it's burning their houses down," said Palley. "It certainly affects me. I'm a human being first and a photographer after that."
Largely devoid of actual people (and thankfully so), the images portray humanity in the fiery husks of houses and vehicles caught in the flames, in the trails of city lights on the distant horizon, and in the glaring electric searchlights of firefighters at their command posts.
Palley shot his first wildfire during a summer internship at the Orange County Register in 2012 and has since become trained in wildland fire-safety procedures. He wears the same protective clothing as the firefighters and carries a radio to monitor their activity on the fire line. After a night of shooting, Palley said, his car and camera equipment smell of smoke and ash for days afterward.
Shot with a tripod and using long exposures, the night skies in his pictures beam with stars and aircraft. They trace gentle circles above the fiery fury below that sends sparks leaping into the air.
Such spectacular plays of light, smoke and color—a glow that cannot be found anywhere else—inspire him. "Fire is its own light source and has its own energy. It bathes everything in this warm light, which is very fleeting and temporary but creates incredible colors," Palley said. "Essentially I'm using the fire to light and paint the scene."
By simultaneously capturing the fires' luminous and destructive power—the yin-and-yang appeal of pictures, as he puts it—Palley hopes Terra Flamma sparks conversation and encourages people to consider their own roles in a natural process that is increasingly being influenced by human action (and inaction).
Stuart Palley stands at the scene of a wildfire.
Drought and wildfire are a natural part of the California ecosystem, but people are fanning the flames through the drier conditions caused by a warming climate and the steady expansion of urban development into lands that are vulnerable to seasonal fires. In 2017, "we had the most destructive wildfire in California history, and here we are barely a year later, and we've already had the new most destructive wildfire, which has eclipsed the previous one," said Palley, referring to the Camp Fire that raged through the small town of Paradise and surrounding communities last November, killing 86 people and destroying nearly 14,000 houses.
"In the immediate term, fires are going to continue to become more destructive. People will die," said Palley, who donates a portion of proceeds from his fine art work to the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters, which supports firefighters and their families with retreats and post-traumatic therapy workshops. But he is also hopeful. "The recent massive fires in California have put this issue in front of people all over the country and all over the world. People are starting to take climate change much more seriously." Like his images, Palley's outlook is both bright and dark: "Hope for the best, and plan for the worst."
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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