Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy's Storm Surge Statistics See Seashore Slammed

A calm view of Manhasset Bay.  A significant
storm surge may happen here within 48 hours.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Well, living on Long Island has some great advantages and some great risks.  Today, the risks are in full view.  Hurricane Sandy is creating quite a bit of havoc and it looks like the greatest risk to the Manorhaven, New York area will be from storm surge.  In my area, there is a 90% chance of a 0-2 foot storm surge, an 80% chance of a 2-3 foot storm surge, a 70% chance of a 3-5 foot storm surge, a 40% of a 5-7 foot storm surge, a 30% chance of 7-9 foot storm surge, and a 10% chance of a 9-11 foot storm surge.  In addition, not too far away from me and up into the west end of Long Island sound, there is a 10% chance of an 11-13 foot storm surge.

Take a look at this map.  You can play with different scenarios around the region.

So, I expect that some evacuation orders will be given for New York area some time today.  I live on the water, and could survive a 7 foot storm surge without too much difficulty.  However, we will probably have a mandatory evacuation given the risk for higher tides.  Ninety percent of all hurricane related deaths are from storm surge, so this event has some serious risk for Long Island.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Green Halloween

Click for photo credit.
I ran across this article that provides some suggestions as to how to make your halloween green.  The article highlights various ways to make the holiday more environmentally smart.  The suggestion that jumped out at me, not in a good way, is that one should replace candy as a treat for the trick or treaters with things like "apples, polished rocks, or whistles."  I am about as green as they come, but I like my halloween orange and black.  If someone gave me an apple or a whistle in a trick or treat bag I would probably turn into a ghoul.  Why would you give a kid something they probably have at home in their fruit bowl?  As a geologist, I would be perfectly happy with a very nice rock or mineral specimen (fluorite please), but I doubt if most kids would feel the same way and some particularly naughty kids might turn them into a trick on your windows.  Plus, aren't whistles choking hazards?

If one were so inclined, there are plenty of reasonable environmentally sound candy sources out there that one can use to give to kids that wouldn't cause as much of a frown as an apple or a rock.  Or, how about giving something like a seed growing kit, or a small coloring book for little ones if you don't want to go the candy route?  Plus, if you don't want to buy into the whole halloween thing, you could always give yourself a treat and go for a nice long night hike during the trick or treat period and turn off your porch light.

I've noticed over the years that trick or treat does not seem to be as big of a deal as it once was.  There are more alternative events for kids for safety reasons and schools, churches, and community centers have provided a variety of great venues where kids can spend the evening in a non-sugary sort of way.  So before you buy rocks, apples, or whistles to give away to the kids in an effort to green you halloween, why not just take a vacation from the holiday and let those who want to party halloween old school have a nice time.  There are certainly ways to green up your halloween, but lame treats just give the green movement a bad name.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hardcore Hurricane to Haunt Halloween

Well, it looks like Long Island is in for another big storm.

Hurricane Sandy has taken aim at the megalopolis that extends from Washington D.C. to Boston and she should be arriving in time for Trick or Treat.

This is the second large hurricane to impact the area.  I had to evacuate for a storm last year.  As it turns out, the greatest damage was not on Long Island, but upstate New York and into Vermont.  See this post for images of my experience from that event.

The path of this storm is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the main population center of the Mid Atlantic region of the United States will be impacted in some way.  The rainfall totals from the storm are concerning.  Areas of metro region are expected to get over 9 inches of rain.  Long Island is expected to get from 4-8 inches of rain.  However, the forecast is still rather uncertain.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Now Is Not The Time To Give Up On Algal Biofuels

Click for Photo Credit
The National Research Council (NRC) just published a report on the sustainability of biofuels and their conclusions are mixed.  Using the current technology, biofuels are not particularly sustainable due to issues of water and energy use.  However, the report highlights that the technology around biofuels is just emerging and that there is strong potential for biofuel production in the future.  In addition, the report notes that there are particular areas where industrial-scale biofuels may be particularly suitable.  It doesn't make sense, for instance, to develop biofuels in areas where there is high aridity.  It makes more sense to develop the fuel where there is an abundance of water and nutrients.  You can download the report here.  You have to go through some registration silliness on the NRC website in order to get the report after searching for it using the report's name:  Sustainable Development of Biofuels.

I became quite familiar with some of the algae biofuels research taking place in Florida due to the extensive Florida Energy Systems Consortium.  I was on the advisory group for the USF team that was looking at a variety of research issues related to energy.  Even though the report from the NRC is not very positive about the scale up potential for algal fuels using the current technology, they are very positive about the potential for the fuel with improvements.   I believe that there is a great deal of potential for biofuels in places like Florida with an abundance of water, wastewater, and warm weather.  I think there is tremendous opportunity to turn nutrient-rich wastewater into a medium for algae growth and thus some type of algal fuel.  The technology around algae biofuels is just emerging and will improve with time.

I am reminded of the struggle to build the United States' largest desalination plant on Tampa Bay.  The plant was conceived in the mid-1990's and built in the early 2000's.  It had severe problems when it first opened.  The murky waters of Tampa Bay caused severe issues with the membranes that were used to conduct the reverse osmosis process.  It took several years and huge investments in research and technology to work out the bugs from the system.  Today, the plant produces about 10% of the region's water.

If we want to move toward alternative sources of energy, it will be a bumpy path.  The development of the petroleum-based energy infrastructure did not happen overnight.  Decades of research and development got us to the present time.  It will take hard work and research if we are to develop algal biofuels as part of an integrated system of alternative sustainable energy sources.  I wouldn't use the NRC report as a reason to stop investing in this technology.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Does Urban Agriculture Lead to Gentrification?

That's the question raised by Grist blogger and urban farmer, Patrick Crouch.

Community garden in East Meadow, New York.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann
It's a great question and he explores the topic widely in his piece here.  There is no doubt that successful urban farms are community amenities.  So, it is not particularly surprising that property values will increase around them.  I find this to be a very positive development in the urban agricultural movement.  More communities will look at them as amenities and work toward their development.  Also, property owners will be more comfortable with nearby urban farms if they know that they will not decrease property values.

I'm finishing up some analysis of community sponsored agricultural farms in Florida with Lisa-Marie Pierre of the National Center for Suburban Studies and we are finding that these farms are largely suburban phenomena with key clusters in university communities.  As property values have stagnated across Florida, the development of quality suburban agriculture integrated into the needs of a community is a wise economic development strategy that will assist with making a community desirable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Operation SPLASH Focuses on Long Island Shores

Some areas of coastal Long Island need a little TLC.  Thanks to
Operation SPLASH,  they are getting the attention they need.
Click for photo credit.
There are a number of important efforts underway on Long Island to try to clean, protect, and preserve the shoreline.  One of the more notable efforts is managed by Operation SPLASH (Stop Polluting Littering and Save Harbors).  They have cleaned up over 1 million pounds of waste from Long Island's shores.  Hofstra students have been involved with the organization in one way or another over the years, but I just found out that a documentary on the history of Operation SPLASH made by Hofstra University students is being previewed this coming Saturday, October 27th from 7-9 at 202 Woodcleft in Freeport, New York.  For more information and to RSVP to the event, see this site.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fake Cave to Protect Bats

A healthy colony of bats.  Click for photo credit.
The Nature Conservancy is building a fake cave in order to provide a refuge from caves infected with the organism that causes white nose syndrome in bats. You can read about it here.  If you have not heard about white nose syndrome, it is a disease caused by fungus and has nearly a 100% mortality rate.  It is believed that up to 7 million bats in North America have died from the disease.  Entire colonies of bats have disappeared and scientists are frantically working to stop the spread or impact of the illness.  Of course there are economic impacts to their decline due to the significance of bats in reduce insect populations and due to their role in polination.

Some caves have been closed to spelunking to stop the spread of the disease and others require disinfection of caving gear prior to entering.  The disease was first noticed in New York and has spread widely throughout the northeast and even into the midwest and Appalachia.

You can read more about the issue here,  here and here.  To learn more about caves, click here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

China's Problem With Ivory

click for photo credit
I ran across this article this morning regarding the seizure of illegally imported elephant tusks to China.  Almost 800 pieces of tusks worth 1.7 million dollars were seized in Hong Kong on their way to manufacturers of traditional medicine.

Many in China and around the world are working to stop this practice, but it is jarring to consider the impact of this one importation given the fact that elephant populations are declining in recent years due to illegal poaching.  According to All About Wildlife, elephant populations were slowly increasing due to solid conservation efforts in Africa.  However, due to the demand for ivory in China, populations are again on the decline.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Metamaterials Transforming Electronics Hardware and Software

Example of a magnified metamaterial.
I ran into this interesting article from The Guardian about the role of metamaterials in transforming the electronics industry.  Metamaterials are precisely designed and engineered technological products that are made of very small high-tech building blocks.  They often printed or produced using unique printing or manufacturing systems.

The article highlights how metamaterials can transfer data and power wirelessly using a printed strip that resembles a wrist band slapper.

If this technology goes mainstream, which it seems likely to do, this will have a revolutionary impact on all areas of technology and energy transfer of electronic products.  According to the article, the technology also has the potential to significantly reduce electronics waste.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Office Renters Seek Green Buildings and Generation Y Wants Small Urban Places

Young people prefer to live in denser urban
areas than in suburbs where space is cheaper.
Click for photo credit.
The Tampa Bay Times had an interesting review of the 2013 Emerging Trends in Real Estate published by the Urban Lands Institute.

There were two take home pieces of information for me:  1) those who rent office spaces are seeking better utilization of space (more employees per area) in green efficient buildings; and 2) younger people would rather live in smaller places in cities than larger places in the suburbs.

What this means is that the green building phenomenon (particularly for commercial rental space) is likely to continue.  This is a good sign that the relatively new green building movement is maturing and likely to succeed into the next generation.  In addition, we will likely see the suburbs age and in some cases decrease in population density.  Many in the suburbs have lamented that their communities are not thriving in the current era.  Some have declined significantly.  That is why work by folks like June Williamson (author of Retrofitting Suburbia) is so important as we look toward a new way to revitalize aging suburbs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scenes from the Debate

The debate yesterday at Hofstra University was an experience I won't forget.  Here are some scenes from the day that I thought I would share with you. 
Howard Dean speaking with the host of a Sirius POTUS radio show in the student union.

Dozens of representatives from all of the world were on hand to watch the debate and experience how the US manages debates.  A subset of this group discussed the state of democracy in their countries.  We are one of the few nations that has the candidates debate openly.  The panelists noted that the candidates that are incumbents typically do not agree to sit for debates in their nation.  Some of the visitors came to my Sustainability class to discuss the environment and politics in their countries.

A subtle but effective student protest.  Several students had the  "Legal or Illegal" sign on their shirts.

Hofstra set up a student free speech zone in the student union cafeteria.  A wide variety of interests were represented by the students.

One of the more interesting signs I saw.  Her sign was signed by a variety of famous politicians.

There were a number of protesters on and around campus all day.

This photo is from the official open access protest zone.

This one too.

I ran into my new friends from the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.  I had a post about the work of this group recently.  There were over a dozen students that came from all over the country for the debate.

Along Hempstead Turnpike, the main road near campus, hundreds of different protesters and supporters of both candidates were out in force.

There was a large group protesting against both of the candidates.

A number of protesters focused on one particular issue.  I think this group was with Act Up.

Chris Matthews talking with some of our students. 

A number of supporters of both candidates were by the MSNBC stage.

More students by the MSNBC stage.  It was great to see the students interact from the different parties. 

Hofstra University organized several debate viewing sites and parties.  This was one of several viewing sites open for students.  I went to the faculty viewing party.  There was also a viewing site set up for the community where the TV show Democracy Now broadcasted for the evening.

Here are two of hundreds of Hofstra students who volunteered for the event.  I spoke with these two and they got very little sleep over the last several days.  But, they were having the time of their lives. 

The Hofstra staff worked their butts off over the last few weeks.  These two catering staff were serving ice cream and waffles at the student viewing party late into the night.  The caterers, grounds keepers, media relations, Cultural Center staff, and many others did an amazing job making the campus look beautiful, welcoming, and exceptional.  Everyone had a smile on their face and everyone was energized.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate Tonight at Hofstra

Things have been crazy on campus in preparation for tonight's debate.  We've had many great speakers visit us and everything is buzzing with excitement.  I had a delegation of debate organizers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Colombia visit my class yesterday to discuss environmental issues within their country.  I'll have another post on that visit at some point in the future.  The first photo below is of my class and the delegation.  Following that photo are some that I took around campus yesterday as I was leaving yesterday.
The Caribbean delegation (seated) in my class.

Hofstra Hall, the original home of the Hofstra family, decorated for the debate.

This reporter was smiling because she was filming me walking when I stopped to take a picture.
I saw 5 students being interviewed by the media as I walked across campus.

This picture says it all.  Lots of folks in black suits on phones, security, and lots of  Hofstra grounds and other
staff folks working hard to make sure it all goes well.

Some fun topiaries outside of the student union.

Students at the MSNBC stage.

Some of our students doing a show on the MSNBC stage.  Hofstra has an amazing journalism program and I'm always impressed with the quality of their work.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Different Kind of Alligator Pool Party!

The gator enjoying a nice soak in the pool.
Photo by my neighbor Pam.

I had a few posts about alligators this month, so it comes as no surprise that my neighbor in Florida ended up with an alligator in her pool!  This happens to people I know.  I remember giving a lecture about sinkholes to a class and the next day one of the students had a sinkhole open up under her house. So when you read my blog, you might want to make sure you are wearing an evil eye or something.

After she found the alligator in her pool, my friend and neighbor Pam called an alligator wrangler to haul it away into the wild.  Alligators have made a very impressive comeback in Florida after near extinction.  Another neighbor found one in their backyard next to my house a few years ago after their dogs attacked it and I could take you places where you can see dozens of them on hiking trails or while kayaking within a mile of my house.

The gator wrangler.
Photo by my neighbor Pam.
Limited hunting of alligators is in place in Florida as a management tool.  However the management of them in suburban or exurban areas is a bit more problematic since hunting is not allowed in these areas. There have been a number of human/alligator encounters in recent years that have ended badly for both creatures.  The animals seem relatively harmless, but they can inflict some serious injuries.  As their populations increase, I think we'll see more positions for alligator wranglers to add the the growing number of green jobs out there!

Here are my previous posts on alligators this month:

Alligator Pool Parties for Kids--What Could Go Wrong?

Gators Terrorize Long Island

Signs of the Debate on the Hofstra Campus

As my readers know, the next Presidential debate is being held on the campus of Hofstra University.  There is a ton of activity all over the place.  Besides a variety of special programming, the day to day operations of the campus has been modified.  Classes are cancelled tomorrow, parking changes are in effect and various entry ways are closed for security reasons.  Plus, I noticed tons of people filming on campus.  It is really quite something to see all of the excitement here.

Below is a photo of the MSNBC stage that is right outside of the student union.  We've had everyone on campus this semester from Cornel West to Karl Rove.  It's been great for the students and a whole lot of fun for all of use here.

Random #hofstra pic.  #MSNBC stage on campus...debate tomorrow!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crabgrass Crucible

Are the suburbs the crucible that helped forge the
modern environmental movement?
Click for photo credit.
On Friday I went to a book signing and talk by Chris Sellers, a Stony Brook professor who wrote, Crabgrass Crucible:  Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America (available from UNC Press here).  The premise of Chris' book is that the modern environmental movement has its roots in suburban America.  Many of the battles that were fought over pollution, land use, and other environmental issues started in the suburbs.  For example, one of the key cases that informed Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, took place in suburban Long Island.

I look forward to reading this book since it is likely to be an important addition to the environmental literature.  Sellers' talk on Friday discussed how he came to understand the role of the suburbs in the environmental movement by living in suburban Huntington Long Island.  Prior to moving to Long Island several years ago, he resided in rural small town North Carolina.  Once he started to live in the suburbs he got interested in the importance of the suburbs in the broader environmental discourse in the United States.  He interviewed dozens of people involved in environmental issues on Long Island and around the country started to draw connections between national trends and suburban trends in the 20th century.

Most environmentalists look at suburbia as a problem---it is low density housing that eats up land and requires extensive infrastructure and energy.  Sellers puts forward a new way of looking at suburbia that I think is a welcome addition to the environmental conversation.  I'll post a complete review of the book once I finish it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sustainable Futures for Global Cities and Suburbs

The conference will be held on the beautiful campus of
Hofstra University, site of this week's presidential debate.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Registration is now available for a conference on sustainability in global cities and suburbs that will be held on Hofstra University's campus on November 8-10.  You can register and see the preliminary program here.  Keynote speakers include Robert Bullard, considered to be the Father of Environmental Justice, Burrell Montz, a noted expert on hazards management in the suburbs, and William Fulton, of Smart Growth America.

Hope to see you there!

An update on the Hofstra Student Garden that students planted in late August.  The radishes are ready to harvest!
Radishes are ready for harvest in the Hofstra student garden.  Photo by
Bob Brinkmann, 10/12/12.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

Click for photo credit.
Growing up secular in a largely Lutheran small town in Wisconsin, I didn't have much exposure to the Evangelical Christian movement.  However, after moving to the south, I became familiar with it and came to understand that it is a much more diverse movement than one realizes from the outside.

Take for example, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.  One member of this group, Danika Foster, is bringing student members from around the country to rally at Hofstra University during the debate next week in support of climate action.  Many in the environmental community have been frustrated by the lack of discourse on the environment this election season and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action is trying to influence the discussion.

The strategy of the group is interesting.  According to their website, they seek to:  mobilize a generation of evangelicals to act and advocate together, influence senior evangelical leaders to set an example and support climate action, and hold political leaders accountable to enact responsible and comprehensive climate policies.  This is a side of the Evangelical movement that gets little attention.  If you want to read more about the environmental movement within the Evangelical community, see the website of the Evangelical Environmental Network here.

Danika was kind enough to contact me and ask me to meet with the group during their prayer rally.  I look forward to welcoming them to Hofstra.  All of us need to work together to try to educate the public about what is happening to the planet.  If you want to read about their event on campus, please click here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

With Liberty and Justice for All

Chris Niedt, me, Lisa-Marie Pierre (all of us from Hofstra), Ed
Laborde from Power Up Communities, and Van Jones.
Photo by Hofstra Cultural Center.
Van Jones was on the campus of Hofstra Univesity yesterday.  He was visiting to give a large public lecture as part of Hofsra's annual Day of Dialogue event.  He also was part of a panel I organized on the environment and the elections.  Hofstra is hosting the Presidential Debate next week and there is a great deal of interest around the election on campus.

It was really great to meet Dr. Jones and have my students interact with him.  He challenged them to get active and participate in the democratic process.

While Dr. Jones had a number of very interesting comments throughout the day, I was struck by his discussion of the Pledge of Allegiance during his evening talk.  He spent a bit of time describing the personal meaning of "...with liberty and justice for all."  He felt that we are in a time period where we are focused on ending the pledge of allegiance with just the term liberty and that we are leaving out and justice for all.  He framed this within the discussion about the growth of income inequality in the United States and how this damages the political system and hurts our society at large.  He felt that we were too focused on individual growth and development and not enough on building and supporting families and communities.

Here's an article from Forbes on income inequality.  It's an interesting issue in the United States.  While we went through one of the worst economic downturns in memory in recent years, income inquality increased.  There is growing interest in the public and increasing political discourse on this issue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Van Jones at Hofstra University Today

Van Jones.  Click for photo credit.
Noted environmentalist and middle class advocate Van Jones will be at Hofstra University today.  He will be giving the closing lecture tonight as part of Hofstra's annual Day of Dialogue event.  You can read about Day of Dialogue here.  The lecture is 6:30-8:00 in the student theater.

Also, I organized a session on the elections and the environment as part of Day of Dialogue.  That event will be 2:55-4:20 in the 10th floor of the Hofstra Library.  Van Jones has kindly agreed to be part of that discussion.  I am really looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he has to say about the elections this year.  The other panelists for that session are myself, Ralph Acampora from Hofstra's Philosophy Department, Edgard Laborde from Power Up Communities, and Chris Niedt from Hofstra's Sociology Department.  Lisa-Marie Pierre from the National Center for Suburban Studies will moderate.

If you are unfamiliar with Van Jones' work, take a look at his website here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roaches Get Revenge at Florida Roach Eating Contest

Click for photo credit.
One of the best story lines in fiction starts with the premise, "What would you do for a million dollars?"  I think this is a terrific starting point for any story.  It's a great conversation starter too!  Some people believe everyone has a price.  The question provides some great opportunities for discussion around ethics.

Well, a Deerfield beach reptile store had a twist on the age old question.  This time, it was how many roaches and worms will you eat to win an $850 python.  It turns out that the winner who was the "life of the party" ended up being the biggest loser.  He passed away just after the contest for unknown causes.  You can read about it here.

This story adds to broader issues of animal ethics discussed here and here in this space.  I think it's interesting too to note this odd eating contest to the range of emerging eating contests in the porky USA.  The photo here is from a fried oreo eating contest.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Community Gardens Zoning Classification Matters

A community garden in the Lower East Side of New York City.
Click for photo credit.
I ran across an article in the journal, Cities and the Environment by Carolin Mees and Edie Stone that highlights the significance of zoning categories for urban agriculture.  You can read the article here.

As more and more food is produced in cities, there is a tension that is developing between traditional community garden land uses and more agriculturally oriented land uses such as community supported agriculture and for-profit farms.

Part of the tension comes from the fact that special land use rules developed over decades that favored and promoted community gardens.  Many of these rules are being used by some of the for profit farms.  Indeed, in New York rule making, the city is looking for space for "urban agriculture" and not community gardens in particular.  All forms of urban agriculture are lumped together.  There is concern in the community garden world that preferences for agricultural land use in the city will go to for-profit agricultural enterprises that may or may not benefit individuals in the community.

Other cities have figured out this problem and have developed particular zoning rules.  For example, the city of Seattle is seeking to have a community garden for every 2500 citizens.  Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco also differentiate between community garden land uses and other urban agricultural land uses.

This tension is interesting in that it demonstrates two things.  First, it demonstrates that there is a distinct difference between different types of agricultural activities that can take place in cities and that they have different purposes and requirements.  Second, it demonstrates that the urban agricultural movement is maturing.  We need to embrace all of the possible types of agricultural activities that can exist within cities.  However, we need to have distinctly different policies and zoning requirements for each.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Canadian Hydroelectric Power Coming to New York: A Discussion of Resources and Vulnerability

The Buffalo News carried an interesting story today about the efforts to bring green energy to New York City.  The article details a major infrastructure undertaking that will bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to New York City via underwater cables in Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.  The project is expected to be completed in 2017.
Watershed areas for water resources for NYC.
Click for image credit

Cities like New York rely on resources from rather far away.  Take a look at the map above of the sites of watershed resources for New York City.  In order to support the population of the city, 1.3 billion gallons of water a day must be transported to the city from 19 reservoirs from as far away as 125 miles.

Obviously, New York must bring in tremendous energy resources as well.  The reliance on resources far outside of the main population center leaves megacities like New York vulnerable to infrastructure failure.  Also, populations where the resources are produced for the megacities can redirect the resources for their own use as needs change.  Can cities develop better ways to harvest local energy and water resources to make them self reliant?

Florida water management districts.
Click for image credit.
Contrast New York City's water situation above with Florida's.  In Florida, the water must stay within water management districts and cannot be bought and sold for movement outside of the district.  Thus, each region must manage its own water resources.  If it runs out of water, it cannot bring water from one region to another.  Instead, they must find ways to limit growth or develop new water resources.  In Tampa, for example, when the region ran out of water, a desalination plant and reservoir were built in order to bring new water supplies on line.

This approach is a stark difference from other regions of the world where water resources are transported hundreds of miles to support thirsty cities.  New York City is but one example.  Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix are others.

The benefit of Florida's approach is that it requires each region to select a development path that has impacts solely within its region.  For example, if Miami were to triple in population overnight, the city would need to import water from some other area, likely the panhandle.  But, importing that water would require huge infrastructure investments and greatly change the ecosystems of that area.  Instead, Miami has to develop its own water resources, enhance conservation, or limit development trajectories in order to grow.  This allows the panhandle to have its own development path without having to ship water to Miami.

Obviously megacities like New York have limited options for water resources and energy.  However, their vulnerability and impacts on distant places only increase as they reach great distances for basic resources.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gators Terrorize Long Island

Click for photo credit.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story about alligators that have been popping up on Long Island lawns.  The poor things were probably captured somewhere in Florida and brought up here as some sort of joke.  Or perhaps someone had them as pets when they were little and then let them go when they got too big. 

Regardless, they have been the talk of the Island.  Having lived around gators, they really are relatively harmless unless you surprise them or are aggressive with them.  So, it's unlikely that they will cause any problem.  Once the cold weather hits, they'll freeze to death.

Florida has plenty of alligators, so it will not miss the handful that showed up here.  However, like yesterday's post about alligators at kids' birthday parties, it demonstrates an ethical problem around our relationship with wildlife and nature.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Florida Rules Kids' Alligator Pool Parties Unsafe

No gators in here for me!
This seems like a no-brainer, but the Tampa Bay Times is reporting that kids' pool parties with alligators are unsafe, and thus are banned.  You can read the article here.  The logical move by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has some illogical folks complaining about the reach of government.

To me, this is yet more evidence about how separate we are from nature.  How could we treat a non-domesticated living creature like a blow up jumpy house or party balloons at a birthday party?  The small alligators are brought from their home to a different chemical environment (a pool--possibly chlorinated) with their mouths taped shut with electrical tape.  A bunch of kids then swim around the gator and touch it while it is held by an animal trainer.  This is wrong from an ethical standpoint and has the potential to be dangerous for kids.

Plus, when did we become that strange culture that allows nature to be delivered to our backyard pool parties?

Florida has all kinds of unusual animal/human problems.  For example, just recently, a woman was arrested for riding a defenseless manatee.  These are oxygen breathing creatures and she could have drowned the animal.  You can read about that story here.

Wild animals are best appreciated in nature from a distance.