Thursday, February 5, 2015

Manatees Push Back

Manatees in their 'refuge'. Photo: CNN

I saw this headline Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans, and shouted, "It's about time!"

It's about time the manatees got in a little payback after years and years of the reverse. It's not only manatees.

Habitat loss is one of the main reasons species go extinct on land and sea. A synonym for habitat loss easily could be: people crowding out ____________ (enter animal name here).

Humans love to claim territory, grab everything within  reach and consume it, conquer it. Straighten its curves and bury its green gifts.

What's really happening is we're knocking healthy ecosystems out of balance, which is bad for us, and we're destroying features like wetlands and forests that are there for good reasons, which is also bad for us.

It's almost unnoticed this crowding out of our wild brethren as it often happens slowly, foot by foot, acre by acre -- like a million small cuts until we've bled the place of nature.

I swam with the manatees in the Crystal River -- the exact Florida location mentioned in the article. It's as if swimming in a suburban neighborhood where the streets are the river. Houses jut into the water and boast impossibly trim lawns, cement patios, and tar-covered bulkheads hard against the flow.

This is where we find one of the last refuges for manatees -- a small roped-off area. Signs everywhere read Do Not Cross. I saw three people slip under the rope to get closer to the huddled animals. Boats laden with tourists chugged nearby, and people fell and jumped into the water, splashing and shouting on the edge of the manatees' tiny sanctuary.

But seeing nature can be a great thing. "Swimming with manatees is a tremendous experience, and I know that when done properly, everybody benefits," said Andrew Gude, who manages Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, according to the article.

Just wish we humans could handle it better. We act as if we own everything natural so we can do whatever we want, including disrespect it and the wildlife within.

I bet somewhere, perhaps deep in their cerebral cortex, there are people who read that headline -- Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans -- and are angry at the manatees. How can they get away with that? We need to push back! 

That's right humans, keep pushing and consuming everything in sight and soon enough, we'll be standing alone, knee deep in our own waste. In many ways, we already are.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Front Page News

Nice to see the ocean as front page news. Not so nice the context, but it certainly deserves the spotlight.

It's clear from the Ocean Faces Mass Extinction in the New York Times that we are killing the ocean right now. Forget Shakespeare, this is a tragedy like we’ve never seen before.

I would have liked the article to describe a little more about why we should care about the ocean, like it produces most of the oxygen we breathe and it feeds over a billion people daily. 

Also, ocean acidification deserves more attention. Of all the ills, and there are many, changing the chemistry of the sea by pumping excess carbon into the air has the potential to undermine everything marine. Already, scientists have found that even slightly more acidic ocean waters support fewer phytoplankton, the foundation of the food web. 

If tiny plankton that fuel ocean life can’t survive in the more acidic waters, then it does not matter how many ocean reserves we set aside or how many fish we leave. 

There are things we can do.  The number one way to help the ocean – and to check ocean acidification -- is to support clean energy and any reduction in carbon. 

As odd as it may sound, what we do on land impacts the entire ocean, including those vast reaches far out of sight, but hopefully, not out of mind. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Different Year, Same Bad Idea

Speaking out against the LNG Port. Photo: Sane Energy

I'm re-posting this because the Port Ambrose LNG monstrosity is back like a recurring nightmare. Public hearings are being held in New York and New Jersey as we speak but the problems with the facility have not changed from the first meeting in July 2013. The line to speak against the facility snaked out the door at that meeting. It was a bad idea then and it's a bad idea now. 

If you cannot attend the most recent meetings, please post your comments online here. It takes only a few minutes.  Below are listed 11 reasons to oppose the project. 

July 2013

The first Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal public scoping hearing in Long Beach, NY was an eye opener not without some lively drama.

When I got off the train at Long Beach, appropriately, ocean breezes led the way.  The LNG Terminal intends to receive gas imports just off the coast.

There were so many people who wanted to speak and who spoke that the hearing went way over its scheduled time. The line to speak snaked out the door.

The good news is that only two speakers of easily fifty plus favored the terminal -- two guys who have one mindset: jobs.  Research expects the facility to generate only 6 jobs.

It's possible that all six of those guys were at this meeting.  At one point, one of them said, "Shut up all you tree huggers!" before he was succinctly drowned out by a chorus of those nefarious huggers of trees.

My list of three reasons to oppose the terminal quickly grew to eleven as speakers young and old made thoughtful and impassioned comments.

Eleven reasons to oppose this facility; a summation of many voices: 

1. I don't see how it could ever be good for healthy oceans.

2. It's more of the same old fossil fuel mindset. Support clean energy -- it's the future.

3. I don't want New Jersey's rejects.  No offense New Jersey, but this is the exact same project that was recently rejected by NJ Governor Christie.  Doesn't that smell fishy?

4. The public comment period is way too short.

5. There are no assurances that this will not switch to an export facility, which will greatly increase the desire to frack gas in New York.  This is a genuine concern because natural gas is abundant and cheap in the US and expensive elsewhere and switching to an export facility does not require extensive review.

6.  The impact on the nearby proposed wind turbine farm is unknown.

7. A highly explosive super pressurized gas facility just offshore -- seems like a viable homeland security issue.

8. What happens if there is another BP-like blowout?  Is that ridiculous "junk shot" in the plan?

9. It is a huge safety issue very close to many people and viable fisheries.

10. Has sea level rise even been considered, or the facility's ability to withstand the 30-plus foot waves recorded during Sandy?

11. The guy called me a tree hugger; hurt my feelings.

Take Action: 

Contact your state and city representatives.

For more information, see Sane Energy ProjectClean Ocean Action, Bayshore Watershed Council, and/or Surfrider to name a few great organizations who are all over this old-new bad idea.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pump Nature Out of Miami

Developers in Miami, Florida, are spending $55 million to build luxury condos on an active floodplain yards from the ocean.  The city itself plans to spend $300 million on a system to pump water out of areas that now flood even on sunny days.

Ideas like these might be called "bold" and "innovative" by some people but other words come to mind like "futile" and "shortsighted".

The ability of people to control nature has repeatedly been disproved.  Many instances come to mind not least of which is the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

In New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers and others have been trying to control the giant muscular snake called the Mississippi River for a century.

They even built a neighborhood, the doomed Ninth Ward, below the water level on three sides.  Unfortunately, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city it only took one levee to breach even a little for water to come pouring into the Ninth Ward, filling the streets like filling a bathtub.

Given that tragedy, it is difficult to appreciate the Miami plans.

“We’re showing the world that you can fight back," said one city official in Miami.  I think he meant to say we're showing the world that we have no original ideas, and yes, fast money flies.

It might be a better idea to learn to work with nature.  Cede the Miami floodplain to the ocean; it's there for a reason.  Keep intact important natural features such as coral reefs, wetlands, and dunes.  We might see that they not only enrich us but also protect us.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Hope your holidays are filled with natural beauty and wonder.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Last Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

"Heavy logging activity devastated the population of ivory-billed woodpeckers in the late 19th century. It was generally considered extinct in the 1920s when a pair turned up in Florida, only to be shot for specimens. By 1944, the last known ivory-billed woodpecker, a female, was gone." -- Studying a Vanishing Bird, Cornell Lab of Orinthology 

The Last Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

He found her, stayed with her, as fast as he could walk,
after the saws finished their business,
every morning she fluttered through remnants
calling, calling, calling,
echoes across puddles in craters where roots last held,
scattered leaves pressed into muddy treads

the primeval urgency of any creature,
calling, calling, calling,
maybe a shrill stretch of fear in her voice
like a rip

keep living is all that came back,
beating against her loud feathers, filling her small lungs,
opening her deft, gleaming white bill,
where are you
where are you

he writes what he sees, binoculars hung slack,
for weeks the same until --
he wakes again with clenched teeth,
unsure if he even wants to hear that cry yet again,
checks his watch for her cue,
looks into the scraggly saplings left behind like orphans,
and all he gets
is the heavy silence of a place so full,
now empty,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thank You Ocean

It's that time of the year to get stuffed, to celebrate how good we really have it. From what I can see, despite my myriad complaints and issues, I have it pretty good.

But let's talk about a gift for all of us. I'm thankful for the ocean -- ok that's kind of obvious.

Let's see, I'm thankful that the ocean gives delicious and healthy seafood. I'm thankful that the ocean provides over half the planet's oxygen and most of the freshwater.

I'm thankful that the ocean always provides raw beauty and, sometimes, breathtaking beauty.

I'm thankful that the ocean and all its fabulous creatures and vastness fills me full of wonder and awe. I'm thankful that the ocean seems to scrub my head and heart.

Really, I'm thankful that the ocean exists at all. Without it, I would not exist. It is my (and everyone's) true home in that sense.

These are gifts to be sure, so thanks are in store. Wouldn't want to take them for granted. Have a great holiday.